Inside This Issue - Opinion
Pharmacists get help in fight against Rx abuse
October 11th, 2010
The Drug Enforcement Administration late last month sponsored a program to remove dangerous drugs from communities across the country.
The “Take-Back” day, which involved government, law enforcement, public health and community groups in more than 3,400 localities, was part of a broader initiative to reduce the availability of substances that can be abused and, in the process, adversely affect the health of the individuals who do so and pose a threat to public safety.
The fight against drug abuse is nothing new; the surprising thing about the program is that it focuses not on cocaine, heroin or marijuana but prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
“Prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem, and take-back events like this one are an indispensable tool for reducing the threat that the diversion and abuse of these drugs pose to public health,” says Gil Kerlikowske, director of national drug control policy.
The problem is vast. According to statistics cited by Ken Hale, assistant dean of professional and external affairs at the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy, one out of five high school students in the United States has taken prescription medications without a physician’s authorization; hospitalizations relating to prescription opioids, sedatives and tranquilizers rose 65% from 1999 to 2006; and unintentional drug poisoning is now the leading cause of accidental death in 16 states and the District of Columbia, and second in the nation as a whole.
The seriousness of the situation hasn’t gone unnoticed. In addition to the DEA’s efforts, Congress is taking action. In late September the House passed three bills targeting abuse and diversion of pharmaceutical products. The measures are now before the Senate.
Health care providers are also doing their part. One of the most noteworthy initiatives is GenerationRx, a toolkit created by the Cardinal Health Foundation and Ohio State. The resource, which can be downloaded free on the pharmaceutical wholesaler’s web site, is intended to facilitate the work of pharmacists as they strive to educate people about the dangers of medication abuse.
Developed with the input of retail pharmacists from Kroger, Discount Drug Mart and independent drug stores in Ohio, the program, which was launched in April, is already making a difference in the state.
Cardinal now wants to extend the reach of GenerationRx across the country. It’s a worthy endeavor. As the company and its partners recognize, no one is in a better position to help prevent medication abuse than the health care professionals with the greatest knowledge about pharmaceutical products and their effects on the body.