The prescription drug epidemic is getting worse at an alarming rate. It is time to take action, according to our federal government. White House Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, is leading a new campaign against prescription drug abuse and the devastation it causes. “We are in the midst of a public health crisis driven by prescription drug abuses,” said Kerlikowske at a press conference this week. (1)
Government Anti-Drug Campaign
The plan is called “The Administration’s Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis” and it is a multi-faceted approach. The goal is to reduce the rate of prescription drug abuse by 15% within 5 years. The tactics to be used in this plan include state prescription drug monitoring systems, take back programs for prescription drugs, and educational programs for doctors and patients. The DEA also plans to get tougher with pill mills and the doctors that illegally prescribe drug after drug to addicts and dealers. Said Kerlikowske, “Although it’s a very small number of doctors who abuse their prescribing privileges, they are responsible for an immense amount of the suffering and death.” (1)
Many areas already have drug take back days, and these programs continue to increase in popularity every year. The drug database has been implemented in a number of states already, and other states are following suit. Still other states, like Florida, are feeling pressure to adopt their own prescription database, especially after the unveiling of the government’s new strategy this week.
Education for Doctors and Patients
The newest part of the administration’s anti-abuse plan involves education of doctors and patients. The FDA will require drug companies to complete a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS) for all extended-release opioids, such as oxycodone, morphine, and methadone. According to the plan, companies will need to provide training for doctors and educational materials for patients receiving these opioids. Until a bill is passed by Congress, however, physicians will not be required to participate in the educational training. To combat this, the FDA is hoping to offer continuing education credits to physicians willing to participate.
The doctor education will go a long way to help ensure that doctors prescribe and monitor in such a way as to reduce the number of patients that abuse the drugs. Also according to the plan, doctors and patients would need to sign pain contracts, which would state in writing how the patient should or should not use the medications.
Not everyone is in favor of the increased monitoring and requirements included in the administration’s plan. Drug makers, for example, are concerned that if doctors are required to attend training before being allowed to prescribe certain medications, sales will fall. However, the statistics are clear: 28,000 people died in 2007 from prescription drug overdoses. More people die from prescription drugs than from gunshot wounds, or from cocaine and heroin combined. This is a problem that needs to be addressed.