N.J. Assembly considers bill to better monitor steroids

TRENTON - The Assembly will vote this week on legislation that would require New Jersey pharmacists to submit monthly reports on prescriptions for the human growth hormone steroid.

The measure came about after a recent newspaper investigation uncovered widespread steroid abuse in numerous police and fire departments across the state. It also found that many of the officers paid for the drugs with their public health benefits.

HGH is not a controlled dangerous substance under federal and state laws and isn’t monitored by the state.

But the measure up for a vote Monday would add it to New Jersey’s prescription monitoring program, which was created in 2007 to monitor controlled dangerous substances dispensed in most outpatient settings.

“This steroid abuse is frightening from both a public policy and public health perspective,” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-Delanco, one of the bill’s primary sponsors who also is a physician. “Taxpayers have been stung and public safety has been put at risk, as has the health of the abusers. We cannot sit idly by and let this abuse continue. This bill is a step in the proper direction.”

Conaway and other proponents cite the investigation conducted by The Star-Ledger of Newark, the state’s largest newspaper, which in December reported that hundreds of police, firefighters and corrections officers were using the drugs to build up their strength.

It also found that at least 248 officers and firefighters from 53 agencies obtained muscle-building drugs from a now-deceased Jersey City physician, including some that have been linked to increased aggression, confusion and reckless behavior.

“State taxpayers have been wrongly paying for millions of dollars in insurance costs for prescriptions that were, in many cases, issued illegally,” said Deputy Assembly Speaker John McKeon, D-West Orange, another primary sponsor of the bill. “Taxpayers also have been footing the bill for the side effects of this abuse. It’s long past time for this outrage to finally stop. Taxpayers and public safety deserve better.”

Besides Conaway and McKeon, the bill’s other primary sponsors in the Assembly are Democrats Ruben Ramos Jr. of Hoboken and Valerie Vainieri Huttle ofEnglewood. It was approved by the Health and Senior Services committee in late January.

Identical legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, and referred to the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens committee, which has not yet scheduled a hearing on the bill.

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