SCRANTON — Police in Lackawanna County say illegal prescription drug use in on the rise and they tell us those drug users are the most difficult to catch.
So, Senator Bob Casey had our area in mind when he sponsored a bill to prevent the problem.
Police in Lackawanna County say here and nationally, the abuse of prescription medication has quadrupled in the last decade and they say that problem begins at places like DePietro’s Pharmacy in Dunmore but the people who dispense the drugs have no way of telling who is abusing them. That’s what this proposed bill would change.
Senator Bob Casey chose the Lackawanna County district attorney’s office to announce he’s sponsoring a senate bill aimed to help combat prescription drug abuse because if you go by the statistics, Lackawanna County is a big part of the growing problem.
Pennsylvania has the third highest number of heroin users in the country, and Lackawanna County is among the highest in overdoses. Police say prescription pain pills are thought to be heroin’s gateway drug.
“Preventing someone from abusing opiate prescription drugs before they even get to the point getting anywhere near heroin, or on the path to getting to heroin,” said Sen. Robert Casey,(D) Pennsylvania.
The bill Senator Casey is proposing would put a lot of rules in place for doctors and pharmacies to track patient’s prescription use and develop a statewide database of patients for doctors and pharmacies to track drug abusers.
“I think if doctors or pharmacists can have this information available to them pursuant to a database, that would be very important to keep these individuals from becoming full-blown addicts and then going out and committing other crimes in our community,” said Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola.
Pharmacists we spoke with say they back the proposed bill because they say it’s nearly impossible to tell which patients truly need prescription pain medications like Oxycontin and which patients are abusing it.
“Basically the only thing we have right now is our intuition and a lot of legwork,” said Tom DePietro, owner of DePietro’s Pharmacy in Dunmore.
DePietro says he sometimes works with insurance companies to stop drug abusers but there has never been a way to share their information with police.
“It’s going to create a safer environment for, not only us as pharmacists, but for the physicians and the patients.”
Senator casey says the proposed bill that would develop that database is still in the very early stages in Washington but has a lot of support so far.