Shaheen Introduces Legislation to Improve Opioid Prescription Safety

**Legislation, named Carl’s Law to honor the Granite State’s Carl Messinger, would require medication to include label warning if prescription drug contains opiates**

September 08, 2016

(Washington, DC) — U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced legislation that would require prescription medications to include a label warning if the drug contains opiates that could cause addictive behavior. The legislation is known as Carl’s Law in recognition of Carl Messinger, a Granite Stater who was recovering from substance use disorder when he was prescribed a medicine that, unknown to him, contained an opioid. Carl relapsed following the incident and eventually overdosed, however, his relapse could have been prevented by knowledge of opioid contents in the prescribed drug. Carl’s Law was authored and introduced in the House by Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH).

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) announced that it will require a boxed warning on opioid-containing medications and benzodiazepines to inform patients of the serious risks associated with the combined use of the two classes of drugs. Carl’s Law offers more explicit warnings to consumers about specific addictive qualities of opioids themselves.

“Opiates are highly addictive and it’s imperative that consumers are aware of which drugs contain them,” said Senator Shaheen. “Appropriately labeling opiate-containing medication is a simple and necessary way to inform consumers of the risks. Carl Messinger’s relapse and ultimate overdose could have been prevented by clear labeling on the cough medicine his doctor prescribed. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the opioid crisis – we need to address the many contributing factors to this epidemic including prescription labeling, access to recovery support, and resources for those on the frontlines in our communities. I will continue to do everything I can in Congress to curb the opioid epidemic in the Granite State and across the country.”

“The opioid epidemic is taking a devastating toll on families and communities across New Hampshire,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “Sadly, the struggle extends to those in recovery who face a long and difficult road. We need to support those fighting substance use disorders throughout their journey and that means making it clear when a medication contains opioids. I crafted this legislation after learning about Carl Messinger’s story, a young man from Holderness in recovery whose life was lost after he was prescribed a cough medicine that – unbeknownst to him – contained opioids. His relapse and overdose could have been prevented had he only known what was in that medicine bottle. I’m pleased that Senator Shaheen has introduced this legislation in the Senate and I look forward to working with her to bring Carl’s Law to the President’s desk.”

Senator Shaheen has been a leader in the Senate on efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. Last month, President Obama signed into law the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), co-sponsored by Senator Shaheen, which authorizes support for treatment providers and law enforcement’s efforts to combat drug trafficking, though it does not provide funding for these programs. Shaheen has continued to lead the effort in Congress to pass emergency supplemental funding for those on the frontlines of the opioid addiction crisis. Her legislation would provide supplemental appropriations totaling $600 million to programs at the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services that focus on treatment and recovery, as well as state and local law enforcement initiatives.