CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is asking three federal agencies to step up efforts to counter prescription drug abuse, an increasing problem in West Virginia.
"In our state, prescription drug abuse isn't just in the headlines. It's something families live and grapple with every day," said Rockefeller. "We can tackle this epidemic, and we can change lives.
"The letters I sent to federal agencies are one part of that effort, and I hope the gravity of this issue generates the type of action and response that can truly make a difference."
Rockefeller wrote to the Government Accountability Office, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
He requested that the GAO study the neonatal abstinence syndrome. That syndrome includes a "group of symptoms that occurs in newborns who were exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs, particularly opiods, while in the mother's womb."
Nationwide, one infant born every hour suffers from the syndrome. It creates problems including low birth weight, breathing difficulties, feeding problems and seizures. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., co-signed the letter to the GAO.
He asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for information about how the agency monitors prescription drug abuse by people on Medicaid and Medicare. Rockefeller also asked what the agency is doing to reduce pharmaceutical abuse, recommending that it make stronger efforts to control that abuse.
Rockefeller also asked the FDA about efforts to improve education about methadone for both patients and those who prescribe it.
"Learning about the FDA's efforts on methadone would be useful as the nation seeks ways to address abuse," Rockefeller stated.
Drug abuse in West Virginia has received national publicity.
Kermit, a town in Mingo County, is "America's pill-popping capital ... ground zero of the prescription drug epidemic," according to a Salon.com article from last April.