State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) has filed legislation in the Massachusetts House of Representatives prohibiting the prescription of OxyContin to children under age 17.
DiZoglio’s bill comes in response to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s August 13 approval of OxyContin for children as young as 11. OxyContin is an extended-release version of the painkiller oxycodone and has become known in recent years for its frequent abuse.
DiZoglio’s bill, An act regulating OxyContin prescriptions for children, states that “no practitioner, registered nurse or licensed practical nurse authorized to administer, utilize, dispense or prescribe a controlled substance in the commonwealth shall prescribe any medication or prescription containing oxycontin to any person under the age of 17.”
“OxyContin is manufactured by Purdue Pharma, a drug company which came under fire in 2007 after three of its top executives pled guilty to misleading doctors and the public about OxyContin’s risk of addiction,” said DiZoglio, who serves on the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the legislature. “Recently, the FDA decided to ask that very same company to conduct its own studies on whether or not they deemed this highly addictive substance safe for young children. When I heard of this, I was outraged. We are in the middle of an opioid epidemic. This is no time to expand access to opioids, least of all to young, vulnerable children.”
On September 9, a bipartisan group of eight U.S. Senators, including Sens. Edward Markey (D-MA), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), penned a letter to the U.S. Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee calling for an investigation into the FDA’s decision to approve OxyContin, as well as an examination of the rise in opioid abuse and overdose deaths. Their letter notes the FDA decision was made without the advice of an independent advisory committee, which is required by FDA regulations on approving drugs.
The Senators wrote in their letter, “Today, there are 2.1 million Americans abusing or dependent on opioids. In addition, 44 people die every day as a result of a prescription opioid overdose. Abuse of opioid painkillers is also linked to abuse of heroin, increased hepatitis C infection rates, increase in HIV transmission and a host of other negative public health outcomes. As we work to stop this crisis, the FDA’s decision to approve the use of OxyContin in pediatric patients is a step in the wrong direction, as it may lead to an increase in inappropriate prescribing and use among a population that are already at a higher risk for developing dependency and addiction. ”
A study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that in 2014, nearly 1 in 30 high school seniors had abused OxyContin. In 2009, the Massachusetts OxyContin and Heroin Commission found that in 2007 alone there were 4,544 substance abuse treatment admissions in Massachusetts for persons age 15 to 19. The commission noted the second most-common source for obtaining prescription opioids was through a physician.
“Each day, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2,500 youth in the United States abuse a prescription pain reliever for the first time,” said DiZoglio. “The number of opioids prescribed to adolescents and young adults nearly doubled between 1994 and 2007. We in the Commonwealth have a duty to our children to regulate the distribution of an opioid like OxyContin to these vulnerable citizens”
In addition to this bill, DiZoglio earlier this year filed legislation to develop a model curriculum designed for the purpose of substance abuse and addiction prevention to be incorporated in the Commonwealth’s health curriculum in grades 4 to 12. The Representative also recently secured $25,000 toward the Lawrence-Methuen Community Coalition’s Merrimack Valley Opioid Abuse Prevention Collaborative.