WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today Rep. Greg Stanton introduced a bill to require warning labels on addictive prescription painkillers to take an important step toward combatting the nation’s opioid crisis. The bipartisan Lessening Addiction by Enhancing Labeling (LABEL) Opioids Act was introduced in the Senate today by Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Mike Braun of Indiana—Stanton’s bill is the Act’s companion in the House. 

“Opioids have caused the deadliest drug crisis in our nation’s history, and it has hit Arizona families especially hard,” said Rep. Greg Stanton. “Too many fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters are prescribed what seem like safe prescription painkillers after a car accident or minor surgery, when really, instead of getting on the road to recovery they are put on a path to addiction. Responsible, common-sense labeling practices are an important step toward educating patients on the risks of addiction and addressing this epidemic.”

The bill would amend the Controlled Substance Act to require the Food and Drug Administration to issue regulations to require warning labels be added directly to the opioid prescription bottle that states that the drugs may cause “dependence, addiction, or overdose.” This is similar to what is required for cigarette packaging.

In 2018, Arizona passed the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act, which, among other provisions, requires different labeling and packaging for opioids including a red cap on the bottle to indicate to patients that it is an opioid. The labeling and red cap are required for bottles that contain Schedule II medication. The LABEL Act would require similar labeling tactics in all 50 states.

Last year, Arizona experienced the highest number of deaths associated with opioids in more than a decade. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, between June 2017 and May 2019, nearly 3,000 Arizonans died of suspected opioid overdoses. 

The LABEL Act is an important step to educate patients of the risks associated with taking opioids—including those prescribed by a doctor. In 2016, more than 40 percent of all opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. were due to prescribed opioids.

The bill, which was introduced last year by Senator Markey and former Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, has already earned the support of organizations including the American Public Health Association, Community Antidrug Coalitions of American, National Association of County and City Health Officials, National Safety Council, Trust for America's Health, and Mass Medical Society.