By CHAD ABSHIRE
Two West Virginia Democratic Congressmen expressed displeasure at the House of Representatives for passing a bill to reauthorize the Food and Drug Administration’s user-fee programs related to the pre-market approval of prescription drugs and medical devices, without strengthening the its ability to address the prescription drug crisis in the local area.
U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall, called it, ironically, “a bittersweet pill to swallow.”
“While it includes a provision that would ban the sale of dangerous synthetic drugs, which I support and the House of Representatives passed late last year, the FDA’s programs could have been strengthened significantly to address substance abuse and its impact on our Nation’s economic and security needs,” Rahall, a senior member of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse, said. “Our families and communities need more than recommendations - they need action, and they simply cannot wait any longer for help.”
With the House passing the bill onto the Senate for a final vote, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin expressed dissapoinment that the House passed a compromised version of the FDA bill, one not containing an amendment he suggested to the Senate which was adopted.
According to a news release from Manchin’s offce, the Senate is now expected to also pass the bill so that it is identical to the bill that passed the House, effectuvely nullifying Manchin’s amendment as if it never happened.
“They got their victory – but not at my expense,” Manchin said. “The people who will pay the price are the young boys and girls in communities all across this nation who are seeing their families and their schools and their neighborhoods wrecked by abuse and addiction.”
Two weeks ago, the Senate unanimously adopted a Manchin-sponsored measure to make it harder to get hydrocodone pills for illegitimate reasons. Manchin’s amendment to the FDA bill moved hydrocodone to the list of Schedule II substances from the list of Schedule III substances. His amendment would also have required patients to get a new prescriptions to get their pills refilled. Pills would have to be stored and transported more securely, and traffickers would be subject to increased fines and penalties.
Manchin’s release stated that “special interest groups were able to derail a strong amendment to fight the prescription drug abuse epidemic that is devastating communities all across this nation.”
Although, the senator said he recognized that his amendment didn’t necessarily fit into current business models, but that, historically, “public health concerns have prompted businesses to alter their original plans, hopefully voluntarily, but in some cases only as a result of government regulation – and this is one of those times,” the release from his office stated.
Rahall supported the bill, but was critical of the measure; citing the lack of provisions to strengthen and improve the FDA’s role in regulating the addictive qualities of drugs that are manufactured and ensuring sufficient education and awareness for health care providers and the general public.
“Fighting back against this unending wave of abuse will take the action of all - local, state and federal governments,” Rahall said.
Manchin also said he is not giving up the fight to get his amendment signed into law.
“It doesn’t look like my amendment will go in this bill, but I can assure you that it will not go away. And neither will the problem of drug abuse. I am determined to see this thing through. This measure will pass, whether it passes this year or next,” Manchin said. “Until we do something, there are going to be families that are separated and torn apart because of drug abuse, and little kids who come to me – and you – and plead for help because their Daddy is addicted, or their Mom is on drugs, or someone they know has overdosed or died.
“I don’t pretend that this amendment will solve the entire problem of prescription drug abuse. But when every law enforcement agency that we rely on to fight this war on drugs has supported this amendment and spoken out loud and clear that it would help them tremendously, I don’t know how we can ignore this problem much longer.”
Time for Senate action on the bill is not clear yet, but that chamber is expected to take it up next week and send it to President Barack Obama.