(TRENTON) – Assemblyman Joe Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic) made the following statement Thursday as the Assembly voted 74-0 to approve his bill (A-3602) to revise the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program to curb prescription drug and heroin abuse:
“In July 2013, the State Commission on Investigation issued a report entitled ‘Scenes from an epidemic: A Report on the SCI’s Investigation of Prescription Pill and Heroin Abuse.’ The report included testimony from law enforcement, addicts, former members of street gangs and physicians, including some who had operated pill mills. One of the major recommendations of the commission was to review and update the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), a program that allows physicians and pharmacists to check a central database prior to prescribing and dispensing opiates. The main problem with the PMP is that its use is not compulsory.
“The legislation before this house changes the PMP by requiring physicians and pharmacists to check the system in certain instances. Specifically, for new patients, and quarterly for existing patients, who are prescribed schedule II controlled dangerous substances. Every portion of this bill has been reviewed and vetted by the stakeholders, including the Medical Society, the state’s largest association of doctors, and the Pharmacists’ Association, both of whom are in favor of the legislation.
“I want to thank them, as well as members of law enforcement and addiction advocacy groups, for working closely with me to craft a bill that will be effective while being both practical and acceptable to all parties. I, along with the other sponsors, spent an incredible amount of time ensuring that this legislation would serve to assist medical professionals to combat the terrible epidemic that we are seeing throughout our state.
“It does not matter whether you are from a rural area, suburb or urban area, the terrible effects of addiction, specifically prescription pill and heroin abuse, have impacted all of us. It has no face and it is without borders. We must act collectively to help in this fight to save lives.
“Over the past year, I have met with law enforcement officials and addiction specialists who conveyed to me that the problem is worsening. I have listened to testimony of parents who have buried their children because they became dependent on the drugs. The DEA reports that opioids and anti-depressants are responsible for more overdose deaths than cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines. Admissions to state-licensed substance abuse facilities have risen by 700 percent over the past decade, and most patients are under 25 years old, according to the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
“Requiring use of the PMP has been widely hailed as a positive step forward as a means to stopping addiction before its grip is too strong. Ninety percent or more of people who become addicted to heroin first battled with prescription drugs. The PMP is the first line of defense. It has worked in other states, and it will work here. While we cannot legislate our way out of this, we can certainly implement common sense laws to help combat the rise in abuse. We can send a message to the citizens of this state that we care, that the problem is ours to confront, and that we will face it head on.
“I want to thank all of my colleagues for listening and for your support of this bill.”