A bill that seeks to cut the abuse of prescription pain killers known as opioids passed the U.S. Senate Thursday.
Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Red Oak, voted for the bill, and says as part of the bill, she pushed for an amendment to help take down barriers that prevent some smaller pharmacies in Iowa from participating in drug take back programs.
“There are a number of pharmacies that would like to participate, but there are a lot of regulations that are imposed to gaining access to those types programs. And for some pharmacies it can be quite costly to overcome in overcoming barriers,” Ernst says. Those who get hooked on the pain killers often switch to heroin, as it is much cheaper.
Ernst says it’s important that pharmacies across the state can use the drug take back as she says Iowa has a lot of small family-owned pharmacies that are not like the big chains, and they need to be sure they can have easier access to the take back programs so that any pharmacy that wants to participate can. She says the federal program approved by the U.S. Senate adds to the state and local drug take back programs.
“We want to make sure that they are safely handled — and drugs that are turned back in — and that we are getting them from the public when they are not needed,” Ernst says. “So, it’s an important program, I feel very strongly about it.” Ernst’s amendment was not part of the final bill approved by the Senate.
Iowa’s other Senator, Chuck Grassley, help push the bipartisan bill through. Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows 264 people in Iowa died of drug overdoses in 2014. According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a total of 94,000 used prescription pain medications for non-medical purposes in 2014, including 10,000 young people (ages 12-17).