State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

A soft plea to investigate "proliferation" of addictive prescription drugs

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 19, 2013 10:00 PM
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One state lawmaker’s call to investigate the proliferation of prescription drug abuse in the commonwealth could be the opening salvo in a war on drug companies, or a blip on the radar in the Legislature.

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) says he’s had it.

With the number of deaths due to overdose, with drug companies that don’t return his calls to hold a meeting to talk about the availability of prescription drugs, with the sense that there’s little to be done to break the cycle of addiction to things like painkillers that can be obtained from going to the right doctor.

“It is absolutely a disgrace, a disgrace that we’re allowing this to continue across the state of Pennsylvania and not really being proactive about what’s going on,” Di Girolamo said at a press conference Thursday. “It just absolutely defies logic. These deaths are absolutely preventable and they’re absolutely senseless.”

The House GOP’s most outspoken advocate on issues concerning mental health, disability rights, and health care access said he wants the state attorney general to throw everything it has at the problem of opioid drug availability in Pennsylvania.

To that end, though, he’s filed a non-binding resolution – so even if it passes, the attorney general’s office doesn’t have to respond.

“I think it’s time that we really step up and start to do a whole lot more and really be a lot more proactive,” DiGirolamo said. He envisions that an investigation could lead to something like the settlement Pennsylvania received in 1998 after joining 45 other states in a lawsuit against cigarette manufacturers.

“States and attorneys general from around the country got together and sued the tobacco companies for the problems that tobacco caused in their state and set up a fund and used that fund for different reasons,” DiGirolamo said. He’d like to fund drug abuse treatment programs in such a scenario.

His proposal comes days after the governor noted support for a more robust statewide drug monitoring database that would allow doctors and pharmacists to screen patients for substance abuse behavior patterns. DiGirolamo, who authored such a plan, says his measure is being re-drafted and will be introduced by Rep. Matt Baker, the chairman of a related House committee.

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Comments: 1

  • Malcolm Kyle img 2013-09-20 12:49

    The prescription-medication-equals-violence link is well-established.

    Most perpetrators of school shootings and similar mass murders in our modern era were either on, or just recently coming off of, psychiatric medications:

    * Recently confirmed: Aurora shooter James Holmes, who murdered 12 people and injured 58 in a movie theatre, was on prescription meds —the names of these medications have been redacted from court documents.

    * Columbine (April 20, 1999) mass-killer Eric Harris was taking Luvox® (Fluvoxamine maleate)

    * Patrick Purdy, who murdered five children and wounded 30 at Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, on January 17, 1989, was using Amitriptyline (an antidepressant), as well as the antipsychotic drug Thorazine.

    * Kip Kinkel, 15, murdered his parents and then opened fire on his classmates at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, May, 1998, killing two and wounding 22 others. He had been prescribed both Prozac and Ritalin.

    * In 1988, 31-year-old Laurie Dann went on a shooting rampage in a second-grade classroom in Winnetka, Illinois, killing one child and wounding six. She had been taking the antidepressant Anafranil as well as Lithium.

    * In Paducah, Ky., in late 1997, 14-year-old Michael Carneal, traveled to Heath High School and started shooting students in a prayer meeting taking place in the school’s lobby, killing three and leaving another paralyzed. Carneal reportedly was on Ritalin.

    * Jeff Weise, living on Minnesota’s Red Lake Indian Reservation, shot and killed nine people and wounded five others before killing himself. Weise had been taking Prozac.

    * Joseph T. Wesbecker, just a month after he began taking Prozac in 1989, shot 20 workers at Standard Gravure Corp. in Louisville, Ky., killing nine. Prozac-maker Eli Lilly later settled a lawsuit brought by survivors.

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