By Claire Castillo
INDIANAPOLIS – Teenagers are two times more likely to access pills out of their parents medicine cabinets than they are to go to the streets to get illegal drugs.
“Pilfering is the number one way that teenagers initiate drug abuse in our country today,” Amy Levander, chair of Krieg Devault said.
She was testifying before the Senate Civil Law Committee Thursday about Senate Bill 339, which requires pharmacies and pharmacists to sell or dispense a schedule II-controlled substance such as OxyContin or Percocet, in a lockable container. She showed committee members a sample lockable vial.
Chair of Krieg DeVault, Amy Levander, testified in favor of Senate Bill 339. Photo by Claire Castillo, TheStatehouseFile.com
Author of the bill, Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, said he believes that the idea is for a person to keep track of his or her own vial to make sure opiates are safe and kept away from teenagers.
“Many times, homes are broken into specifically for somebody to get into the medicine cabinet, and this is another fundamental of keeping our opioids safe,” Merritt said.
Four out of five heroin users today started with a prescription opioid, said Milton Cohen, CEO of SafeRx and one maker of the locking prescription vials.
“Ninety percent of abusers start in their teens, and the number one source for teen abuse, by a very substantial mark, is pilfering,” Cohen said.
One advocate for the bill, paramedic Kristy Nelson testified about losing her son, Bryan Fentz, to an overdose in 2009. He had injured his arm and was prescribed Vicodin.
“Although I approved of the prescription, I was a little hesitant that he had 30 pills with one refill,” Nelson said.
Her son’s pill-taking escalated after his grandfather died. He found Xanax in his grandfather’s closet and took the remaining bottles to begin self-medicating so he could get through his grandfather’s funeral, Nelson said.
Kristy Nelson, a paramedic, testified in favor of the bill by explaining the death of her son from an opioid overdose. Photo by Claire Castillo, TheStatehouseFile.com
She said that her son would take the pills he stole from his grandparents and put them in a Skittles bag. She never thought to check the bag because he was using opioids.
Nelson said that 91 people in the United States die every day because of opioid abuse, which is why she believes that locks on narcotic prescription bottles will prevent teens from accessing them.
Frank Gordon, a site manager at Genoa, a healthcare company in Fort Wayne, testified against the bill. Many of the patients in his facility have a mental illness.
Gordon said many mental health patients will not take their medication if they have to call the pharmacy, obtain a password and then use the password to open the vial.
“Study after studies shows that even a one day gap in therapy can so much as double the risk of hospitalization,” Gordon said. “Well we understand the intent of the bill, and absolutely agree that the opioid crisis is terrible, we do not believe that this is the way to approach the crisis especially within the mental health population.”
The bill was held until Sen. Randall Head, R-Logansport, and chair of the committee, decides how to proceed.
Claire Castillo is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.