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Government Aims to Cut Misuse of Prescription Drugs by 15 Percent in Five Years


A new government strategy aims to cut the use of prescription painkillers by 15 percent in five years. The plan includes doctor training, promoting prescription databases in all states and increased focus on rooting out illegal ‘pill mill’ clinics, the Associated Press reports.

Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, announced the plan will include a requirement that doctors who prescribe oxycodone and other opioids undergo training on proper prescription practices. The plan, called Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis, also includes a media campaign about the dangers of opioids.

A major part of the proposal will be a push for prescription drug databases in every state, the AP reports. Now 35 states have prescription drug monitoring programs, and eight more states, including Florida, the epicenter of the pill mills, have authorized databases that are not yet running. A fourth part of the plan focuses on aggressively enforcing laws against pill mills.

15 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Michael G. Murphy
    Michael G. Murphy / July 28, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    I was wondering if a double-blind study had ever been carried out to determine what percentage of patients who are detoxed off of pain medication, but still have severe pain conclude their problem through suicide? And what should or could be done about this?

  2. Avatar of Patrick
    Patrick / July 15, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    I agree with most of the post. I also think that holding doctors accountable for what a patient does with the pain medication is just going to make them not want to prescribe them. The patient will then have to get it elsewhere like the pill mills. We also know that the drugs make their rounds every ten years or so. Soon it will be another kind of drug at the top of the list. Something we probably don’t know about yet. The problem is not the doctors who are helping people with real pain but the people who feel the need to numb themselves for whatever reason. We need to fix that problem. There will always be a new drug and a new way to get it. Help the hole in the soul. Please stop all the TV adds on what drugs can fix. Start with the big drug companies not the doctors and patients. This month it’s opiates next month something else.

  3. Avatar of marcello maviglia,md,mph
    marcello maviglia,md,mph / May 26, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    I am in agreement with most of the comments. Since I like to be concise , I will list my main concerns:
    1) Usually time limited training is not very effective to change behaviors.
    2) There is a danger that physicians will become very reluctant to prescribe for legitimate pain issues, which will make the problem worse, since individual will look for street-supplies.
    3) But my main observation is about the lack of clarity of the overall philosophy. Usually, people who abuse substances, including prescription drugs, tend to show larger repertories of substance use. The issue , then, is not how to avoid the use of one class of substances, but how to develop effective coping mechanisms to lead healthy life styles. I am dubious that such training can cover the complexity of issues related to recovery.

  4. Avatar of Jill Yeagley
    Jill Yeagley / April 28, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Clearly a comprehensive strategy is necessary and databases, training, and enforcement efforts are all important elements. But, we’re leaving out a major contributor to the rise in prescription drug abuse — namely, TV advertising of prescription meds. It is no coincidence that prescription drug abuse has escalated since the government started permitting advertisements on TV. These ads feed into the mentality that a pill will make everything okay; despite the associated lists of potential side effects, these ads normalize drug-seeking (ask your doctor…)behavior and put the drugs on a par with alcohol, the other heavily advertised and abused drug.

  5. Brinna Nanda / April 24, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    I would like to see all direct to consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals banned from public media. How’s that for a strategy?

  6. joebanana / April 21, 2011 at 5:11 am

    The current drug war is a dismal failure, what makes these idiots think a new drug war will go any better? Drugs are a medical issue, making them a criminal one is just sick. Warehousing non violent drug offenders with gang member, murder, rapists, is not effective treatment. Or, humane.

  7. meltee / April 20, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    I thought docs were already trained in diagnosing and treating diseases. But apparently not for Oxycodone. There are some details about implementing the training that will need to be worked out. Who creates and approves the official training? Who will be authorized to deliver it? Who will track which docs have taken the training and successfully passed it? Will this be on a State by State basis or will it be on a national basis with a national data base? Will DEA or FDA or HHS administer the training? It is not likely docs will be paid for the time they spend on this trainin. I may be a cynic but I would not be surprised if one goal of the training requirement is to reduce the number of docs willing to prescribe the drug.

  8. Jeff / April 20, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    In our organization, new to EHR, I have access to a patient’s entire medical history. There’s no thought of “should I have access” or “do I need access?” It’s simply there. As an addictions counselor why do I need to know my client’s sexually transmitted disease history? It’s none of my business and has no bearing on my relationship with my client. This is the danger of electronic “anything”. There are insufficient safeguards and no checks and balances. I still wonder what many clients would say if they were told any of the thousands of EHR practitioners involved with our system can access their records at whim? This is the slippery slope such databases bring along with them. It sounds good and laudable on the surface and the goal is appropriate, however, it’s almost always the client who pays for the pursuit of that goal in some form or other.

  9. vwalker / April 20, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Hopefully this will not make doctors reluctant to prescribe for persons with legitimate pain management needs.

    Also the reliance on databases is questionable. Theoretically this is what is needed but in practice there are always missing data, errors and anomalies. This assumes they work at all. Billions have been wasted on government funded databases that never worked as intended. I’m curious why the databases are not running in the 8 states mentioned.

    Where does HIPAA fit in to this?

  10. Avatar of Jeff
    Jeff / April 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Here we go, another method of tracking by the federal government. This is how it usually begins. Tracking data sounds so good in some instances but then morphs into a monster that violates public trust and patient confidentiality. Do clients/patients truly understand the exposure ramifications involved? Probably not as often as we’d like. Do they understand how many people will now have access to their HIPPA information in the name of such a “good thing”. Are there not other ways we could accomplish this goal without the onerous burden on our clients privacy rights?

  11. Avatar of C. DeLoe, CRNP
    C. DeLoe, CRNP / April 26, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    As a health care provider who is involved in treatment of those with both chronic and acute pain, I can attest to the need for a national database. This would assist health care providers to prescribe opiods when needed and to prevent duplication of these medications by other providers. There would not be a violation of a patient’s privacy by providing this database. There exists in many states and in the VA system a method of confidential sharing of patient information that promotes continuity of care and avoidance of service duplication via an electronic health record. There are very specific regulations on who may view these records and tracking to assure that only those with a “need to know” can access them. The database would also likely be designed to assure just such patient confidentiality.

    We have an epidemic of narcotic use in this country that absolutely needs to be addressed. We are all responsible for this and we all need to assume accountability for the problem.

  12. Avatar of Catherine Murphy
    Catherine Murphy / August 25, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    I want to know how we could have a tracking sytem on prescription drugs in NYS. Our family, friends, loved ones and especially our chidren are now addicted. Many of our loved ones are dead from overdosing. We need to have a nation wide tracking system because they are addictive drugs and they are killing our loved ones. The medical professional prescribing and Pharmacies are out of hand needing a tracking system. Not only are they killing our loved ones. They make a profit at the pharmacy and then to the street high profit. These drugs for pain mangagement kill pain alright, they are killing us. Profits and more profits fulfilling a greedy need at a very high cost to human life.

  13. DrJJMD / July 17, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Physicians who are NOT fully trained to prescribe opioids should NOT do so. That being said, I think that it is a mandatory part medical education (as it was mine) to become intimately acquainted with painkillers, opioids and their respective side effects. That being said, ANY form of tracking or database that can be used by law enforcement such as the DEA to bring about punitive action against physicians will ultimately make doctors think twice about prescribing potent painkillers even if they are called for. The pharmacological difference or I should say the potential for abuse between a CII medications such as Percocet and CIII medications such as Vicodin is pretty much non-existent. In other words, an opioid addict is just as likely to abuse Hydrocodone as they are Oxycodone (and yes one may be more potent than the other BUT many times Hydrocodone has been prescribed because of the legalities associated with this drug (it can be called in and refills can be provided) where as with Percocet it must be written in 30 day intervals and there are many more legal roadblocks in place. My experience has been that patients who take medication for pain ONLY very rarely become addicted. However, if an alcoholic or a recovering addict where to take narcotic medications of any form, they face the danger of drug abuse, That is something that is NOT distinguished very clearly; drug dependence – which blood pressure medications cause as well as some antidepressants, sleep aids, and pain relievers. However this is often confused with aberrant drug abuse which is a completely different phenomenon; both physiologically and psychologically. An patient with chronic pain may be dependent on 1000mg of morphine per day. However, someone who abuses drugs would take this pain killer to feel better emotionally rather than to treat their intractable pain. That is something that ALL of my colleagues must understand. Also these laws bring about fear among these physicians and hinder their practicing medicine on an individual basis and treating their patients with whatever medication works for them. I believe law enforcement should have little if any control over the prescribing of competent responsible physicians. Some of the cases I have read have NOT been against physicians operating pill mills but rather physicians dispensing Scheduled medications to patients that they felt needed such medications. When a physician is practicing medicine under such guidelines, where individuals with NO medical training or clinical expertise are placed in legal supervisory roles it not only unethical BUT compromises a doctors ability to properly treat a patient, thereby compelling us physicians to violate our oaths to the public. That being said, I’ve fully incorporated safeguards into my own practice for patients seeking drugs for the purpose of drug abuse but for the most part, I refer such individuals to physicians practicing addiction medicine. This is because I believe individuals who abuse their drugs for psychic reasons have an underlying affective disorder that needs immediate attention and treatment.

  14. Avatar of Melissa
    Melissa / February 15, 2012 at 10:49 am

    The answer of an epexrt. Good to hear from you.

  15. Avatar of Rick
    Rick / January 18, 2014 at 4:23 am

    I had a brain tumor removed and not all of it was removed I have had pain since and before that I only saw one Dr. and not once did I ask my Dr. for pain medication or was prescribed it until after my brain surgery. I have stayed on the lowest amount .5mg hydrocdone for a long time with pain and even tried to stop taking it for 2 months but I laid in bed and gained 40 pounds and my feet sweelled I feel like I am being treated like a criminal but have never been arrested or hurt anyone. What is going on in this country I am very educated on the path of addiction and never asked my Dr. to increase my dosage actually I aksed to have it decreased so why should I have to pay for a drug screen?

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