Rep. Greg Stanton today reintroduced his bill to require warning labels on addictive prescription painkillers—an important step, he says, to combat the nation’s opioid crisis. Stanton originally introduced the bipartisan Lessening Addiction by Enhancing Labeling (LABEL) Opioids Act during his freshman term.

Between June 2017 and February 2021, there were 8,482 suspected opioid-related deaths in Arizona, and more than 61,200 suspected opioid overdoses, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). Research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that in 2018, 21 percent of opioid-related deaths in Arizona were caused by addictive prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

“Responsible, common-sense labeling practices are an important step toward educating patients about the risks of opioid misuse. Too many fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters are prescribed what seem like safe prescription painkillers, and instead of getting on the road to recovery they are put on a path to addiction,” said Stanton. “As we continue to fight the global coronavirus pandemic, we have to remain vigilant and fight the public health crisis caused by over-prescribed opioids that has affected far too many Arizona families.”

In January 2021, according to ADHS, 136,720 opioid prescriptions were dispensed to Arizonans.

The LABEL Opioids Act would amend the Controlled Substance Act to require labeling prescription opioid bottles dispensed to patients with a clear, and concise warning that opioids may cause dependence, addiction, or overdose. This is similar to what is required for cigarette packaging.

The labeling requirement would apply to any opioid or opiate listed in Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Schedules II, III, IV, or V with the exception of a drug that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of addiction or an opioid use disorder.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services has one year to finalize the regulations, and dispensers of prescriptions—pharmacists—would have an additional year to comply with the new regulations.

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.

The bill has previously 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.