Manchin expects prescription drug bill to pass

WASHINGTON – A U.S. senator from West Virginia expects a bill reclassifying hydrocodone painkillers to pass.

The Safe Prescribing Act of 2013 changes such painkillers from Schedule III to Schedule II, preventing numerous refills without seeing a doctor, Sen. Joe Manchin said.

“We’re not inconveniencing anybody,” the West Virginia Democrat said.

Prescription drug abuse has touched everyone including congressmen, Manchin said in predicting the act will pass.

The bill, originally introduced in the last session of Congress, was reintroduced on Wednesday by Manchin, and Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., in the Senate and Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., in the House. The act will reclassify hydrocodone painkillers like Vicodin and Lortab because of their high potential for addiction and abuse from a Schedule III to a Schedule II controlled substance.

At present, a prescription can be used for 180 days, then refilled over the telephone without seeing a doctor, Manchin said.

The act as a Schedule II drug would limit a refill in 30-day increments up to 90 days, he said. After that the patient would have to see a doctor, Manchin said.

Doctors who push pills without practicing medicine, “they should be concerned because we’re going to shut them down,” Manchin said.

Prescription drug abuse has become an epidemic, Manchin said. Emergency room treatments jumped from 38,000 in 2004 to 115,000 in 2010.

“We’ve got to stop it,” Manchin said.

Manchin spoke with the newspaper from his office in Washington, D.C.

The senator also said his position on gun control legislation has been “absolutely misrepresented.”

Manchin said he does not support any bans, but supports background checks to prevent those with criminal or mental reasons to not possess guns and the loopholes for buying and selling guns at shows.

The mass killings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December renewed discussions about gun control legislation.

Manchin for around the past month has worked behind the scenes on a compromise bipartisan proposal with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.; Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. A proposal is forthcoming, Manchin said.

“We’re wrapping up,” he said.