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On Tuesday, July 20, during the 2011 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Mark-up, the House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved an amendment authored by Congressman Hal Rogers (KY-05) and offered by Congressman Frank Wolf (VA-10). Rogers released the following statement regarding this amendment, which directs the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to report on the feasibility of participating in state-run prescription drug monitoring programs:

“First I want to thank Congressman Frank Wolf for his tireless support to stop the epidemic of prescription drug abuse,” said Rogers. “For decades, I have witnessed first-hand the devastation wrought by the diversion and abuse of otherwise legal and life-changing prescription drugs in Appalachian Kentucky, and now the abuse of prescription painkillers is the fastest growing drug problem nationwide. When I learned that prescription drug abuse was running rampant among our troops returning from combat, I wanted to ensure that we were doing everything in our power to see they are getting the best possible care. Prescription drug monitoring programs are an important part of the solution, since they enable doctors to more easily identify soldiers and veterans at risk for abuse or in need of treatment. I firmly believe the VA should continue to utilize these valuable tools, which are already at its disposal in most states. Our brave men and women have sacrificed so much, the least we can do is help our solders back on the road to recovery.”

State-run prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP) facilitate the exchange of prescription information among pharmacists, physicians and authorized law enforcement personnel, helping medical practitioners to more easily identify symptoms of addiction and also preventing drugs from being diverted on the streets. Currently, 34 states have operational PDMPs and 10 other states and territories have authorized the creation of such a program. Until 2009, the VA was a willing participant in state-run PDMPs. The amendment directs the VA to report within 60 days of enactment of the bill on the feasibility of reinstituting its participation in PDMPs and to highlight any legal or administrative barriers that Congress may address to resolve this issue in the future.

Rogers is a founding member and co-chair of the recently created Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse, which aims to unite like-minded policy-makers in their efforts to raise awareness of abuse, and to work towards innovative and effective policy solutions incorporating treatment, prevention, law enforcement and research.