WASHINGTON, DC (WAVY) – Sen. Tim Kaine is co-sponsoring legislation that would put tighter restrictions on the Veterans Administration when it comes to prescribing pain killers.
The bill would regulate the group of drugs known as opioids. While proven effective for certain cases of acute pain, the drugs can be highly addictive and are lethal when combined with certain other drugs.
Kaine says opioids have run rampant in the country, and part of the problem is at VA hospitals.
“Virtually all of the prescription opioids that are prescribed in the world are prescribed in the United States,” Kaine said. “I think we’ve gotten into a culture where it’s just too easy.”
Last year in a 10 On Your Side investigation, veterans told WAVY.com they were having a tougher time getting their pain meds, after the VA itself announced its own crackdown, called the Opioid Safety Initiative.
Kaine and a bi-partisan list of 12 co-sponsors want to go further. “[The bill] requires the VA to do a much better job of coordinating care of offering alternatives to opioids for pain management.”
The bill calls for stronger opioid prescribing guidelines, increasing coordination and communication with facilities and families regarding pain medication, and accountability at the VA through audits, reviews and reports to Congress.
Kaine says he wants to make sure the physicians, health care professionals and the patients of the VA have a better understanding of how easily opioids can mix with other drugs and create really negative side effects.”
The bill is named in honor of Jason Simcakoski, a 35-year-old marine veteran from Wisconsin, who died last summer from a toxic mix of drugs. His VA had him on more than a dozen drugs, including pain killers, anti-psychotics and tranquilizers.