Proposed law would make some medicine bottles adult-proof

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By LANCE COHEN
Capital News Service

LANSING — Health officials worried about Michigan’s opioid crisis are pushing for a state law that would require a lock on certain prescription bottles to prevent pill pilfering.

The bill would mandate that all prescriptions of opioids and certain other addictive drugs be dispensed in locking prescription vials rather than merely child-resistant ones.

To open them, people would have to enter a numeric code before screwing off the cap. The idea is to keep other people from sneaking small amounts of pills from someone else’s prescription without getting noticed.

The billion dollar pharmaceutical industry isn’t doing enough to combat opioid addiction, said Rep. Joe Bellino, R-Monroe, the bill’s sponsor.

“The pharmaceutical industry deserves some credit for starting this addiction problem, and they need to help step forward and fix this issue but right now they are doing nothing,” Bellino said.

The child-resistant vials are mandated by the Federal Poison Prevention Act of 1970. The goal was to keep young children from overdosing on flavored aspirin, which was a prevalent issue then.

But opponents say the locking containers are too expensive and ineffective.

The Michigan Pharmacists Association opposes the bill because it won’t accomplish the legislators’ goal, said Larry Wagenknecht, its chief executive officer.

The locks are unreliable and provide a false sense of security for those who own the drugs, he said. “They are not hammer-proof.

“As a result of this legislation, manufacturers are likely to incur higher costs of production which will lead to an unnecessary increase in the cost of health care,” Wagenknecht said.

The cost of the new locking pill vial is 80 cents more than a regular pill bottle, Bellino said.  

The bill has support from the Michigan Association for Local Public Health and Families Against Narcotics.

While the local public health group supports the bill, it is concerned about how the public will react to the bill’s source of funding for the pill bottles, said Meghan Swain, the executive director of the association.  Still to be determined is if the additional cost would come from taxpayers, customers, drug manufacturers or pharmacists.

Bellino says the locking containers will help curtail the number of opioid deaths which killed more than 2,600 people in Michigan last year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Oakland County commissioners recently passed a resolution supporting the bill. The boards of commissioners in Monroe and Livingston counties are expected to release their own opinion on this bill in the near future, Bellino said.

Five states, including New York and Illinois. are attempting to pass similar legislation. However they are receiving similar pushback from interest groups, Bellino said.

The bill was referred to the House Health Policy Committee.