DENVER (CBS4) – Lawmakers want to help curb prescription drug abuse in Colorado, a state they say has one of the highest abuse rates in the country.
Some lawmakers want a pill that can’t be crushed and snorted, or melted and injected. That is how many people abuse prescription drugs, including nearly 30 percent of high school seniors in Colorado, according to one survey.
Even though lawmakers say it’s an epidemic, efforts to change the law ran into stiff opposition.
Rep. Jonathon Singer, D-Longmont, used a hammer to drive home the need for abuse deterrent painkillers in Colorado. He showed a committee how easy it is to crush a pill into powder for easier abuse — drugs like OxyContin that are meant to work as time release capsules over 12 hours.
“That can be chopped up, crushed, melted and injected through hypodermic needles that give you that immediate lightning rush of 12 hours all at once,” Singer said.
Singer is carrying a bill aimed preventing that. Over the last four years drug companies like Purdue Pharmaceuticals, which makes OxyContin, have switched to tamper-resistant pills. Singer’s bill would bar pharmacists from substituting a painkiller that can be crushed with one that can’t — and requiring insurers to cover both at the same cost.
“This bill will incentivize drug companies to raise prices for tamper-resistant opioids, because they can charge anything they want knowing these drugs will be capped at lowest level,” Sara Orrange with the Colorado Association of Health Plans told lawmakers.
Orrange says if insurers have to absorb the real costs, it could mean higher premiums. But supporters say the savings in addiction prevention are far greater.
“For example, in the third year after OxyContin was reformulated — it was one of most highly abused drugs on the DEA watch list in the past — fatal overdoses have been decreased by 87 percent,” chronic pain expert Dr. Gareth Shemesh said. “How do you put price tag on someone’s life?”
But the concerns of insurers won out. The bill was amended to instead direct the Governor’s Task Force on Substance Abuse to come back next year with recommendations. The committee will vote on that amendment at a later date.