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New bill targets deaths related to methadone – journal-news.net | News, sports, jobs, community information for Martinsburg – The Journal

New bill targets deaths related to methadone – The Journal.

New bill targets deaths related to methadone

By Christina Marnik / Journal staff writer

MARTINSBURG – An increase in Methadone-related deaths has led to the introduction of a new Senate bill aimed to educate more people about the prescription drug, but some are worried it could lead to less people in the area getting the medication they need.

U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., introduced the Methadone Treatment and Protection Act of 2009 after a government report stated that the use of methadone for pain management has caused a spike in overdoses of the drug.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of methadone-associated deaths increased from 786 in 1999 to 4,462 in 2005.

West Virginia had an increase in methadone-related deaths from seven in 1999 to about 120 in 2005, according to a report from the United States Government Accountability Office.

“Now is the time for a comprehensive strategy to address the risks and complications associated with methadone and prevent any additional avoidable deaths, both in West Virginia and across the country,” Rockefeller said in a news release. The bill will require practitioners and patients to be educated about the drug, create a reporting system for opioid-related deaths and improve federal oversight of distribution of the drug.

“Educating the doctors as well as the patients, it sounds like a winner,” said Joseph Jurand, a psychiatrist with Shenandoah Medical System. “My only concern is it will limit the chronic pain treatment for people who need it.”

Methadone is a Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment for addiction to opioids, such as heroin, and for treatment of pain.

Until recently, it was primarily used in opiate treatment programs. It acts as a replacement for drugs by preventing withdrawal symptoms, and it suppresses the symptoms for 24 to 36 hours, according to the report.

It is becoming increasingly more widespread for the treatment for chronic pain, but only masks pain for four to eight hours, However, the drug stays in a person’s system for much longer, which can lead to problems if a patient takes more of the drug than prescribed.

Like other prescription drugs, methadone can be abused. If it is taken in too high of a dosage or combined with other drugs or alcohol, serious side effects or death can result.

“In recent years, too many families have come to me with heartbreaking stories of mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers who have been seriously injured or who have died as a result of methadone,” said Rockefeller, who is chairman of the Senate Finance subcommittee on health care. “Prescription drugs are necessary, they are valuable and save lives, but some can be extremely dangerous. Both patients and providers need to know and fully understand the risks and potential complications of what they are dealing with, so we can avoid any tragic consequences.”

Jurand said that Methadone is a highly effective and widely prescribed medication for the treatment of chronic pain. However, problems can result if it is abused.

He said that some of his patients have overdosed on the drug, but those people were not taking it as prescribed,

“Some people are trying to get high so they keep taking, taking and taking,” he said. “The trouble is they stop breathing before they get high enough, if they’re already addicts and are trying to get high off of an unusual dose.”

The increase in methadone-related deaths may also be related to the medication being an inexpensive alternative to other pain medications, Jurand said.

A lot of people in the Eastern Panhandle are laborers, where they can get injured, are older or don’t have a lot of money. This leads to an increase in the need for the medicine, he said.

And the drug is already difficult to get because many doctors don’t deal with chronic pain because of liability issues, said Jurand, who added he hopes that the methadone bill doesn’t scare more people away from treating those people diagnosed with pain.

The bill would establish a mandatory and in-depth program to educate practitioners about methadone and other opioids and provide grants to states and nonprofits to distribute educational materials about the proper use of methadone.

Other changes, include the creation of the Controlled Substances Clinical Standards Commission, which would set standards for patient education and dosage amounts along with establish guidelines for the initiation of methadone for pain management.

The legislation would also provide $25 million each year to the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act to establish prescription drug monitoring programs in every state.

“At present, our country has no methadone-specific education or certification requirements that practitioners must fulfill before prescribing methadone for pain management,” Corker said in the press release. “This bill would fill in some gaps in education, oversight, monitoring and reporting of methadone so we can help save lives and ensure safe and effective treatments for addiction and chronic pain.”

– Staff writer Christina Marnik can be reached at (304) 26

I am all for educating patients and doctors.  However, any bill that takes away privacy and dignity and the rights of patients isn’t good.  Please educate anyone and everyone about methadone….but having a database that tracks patients and doctors is just one more way to give government control over our bodies and our healthcare!  What’s next?  It’s all just a little too big brother for me.

  1. tim
    May 30, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    here we go, more control because of a statistically insignificant number of deaths compared to the number of people who benefit from methadone. Probably propagated by uniformed, overzealous parents whose addict children took methadone for a high, who should not have been taking it in the first place. This medication is a God send for those who are in chronic pain, and those who are opiate addicts who use this drug for detoxification or for maintanace therapy. Education is good, but more government control in an area where the physicians should be in control is not good. Leave methadone and methadone prescribing ALONE!

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