Bryan Cohen Jun. 27, 2013, 7:00pm

DOVER, Del. (Legal Newsline) -- Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden said Tuesday the state's House of Representatives passed legislation that would combat prescription drug abuse.

Biden proposed House Bill 154, which is sponsored by two registered nurses serving in the General Assembly, Rep. Rebecca Walker and Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, both Democrats.

The bill was passed unanimously by the House and will head to the Senate for consideration.

The legislation is part of a two-bill package meant to battle the growing problem of prescription drug abuse.

"Prescription drug abuse is a public health epidemic and a serious public safety issue," Biden said in a statement. "The bills we have proposed will more effectively punish those who steal prescription drugs, enhance oversight and monitoring efforts, and give medical professionals more information about the addictive nature of the powerful medications they prescribe.

"As nurses, Rep. Walker and Sen. Hall-Long are on the front lines dealing with the pain and damage prescription drug abuse inflicts on individuals and families, and I am proud to have their support."

HB 154 would create a new criminal offense of medical diversion that applies to individuals who intentionally divert prescription narcotics from patients in medical facilities, group homes or nursing homes.

The felony-level charge subjects offenders to potential jail time. The conviction would subject offenders to being placed on the Adult Abuse Registry.

The bill also would require all medical professionals and pharmacists who are licensed to prescribe controlled substances to take continuing medical education courses on the risks connected with administering, diverting and prescribing controlled substances.

The second half of Biden's legislative proposal, Senate Bill 119, was passed unanimously by the Senate last week and was reviewed by a House committee Wednesday.

If approved, SB 119 would enhance Delaware's prescription monitoring efforts.

More than 6,000 Americans start abusing prescription drugs each day. The number of deaths from prescription painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin more than tripled between 2000 and 2010.

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