Monday, June 2, 2014

Getting serious on prescription-drug overdoses

From:  The Denver Post

Robert Valuck, professor of pharmacy at the University of Colorado, likens the prodigious task of reducing the country's non-medical use of prescription drugs to turning an aircraft carrier.

"The forces are so large," he said.

Deaths linked to prescription opioid use have doubled in 10 years in Colorado. For that matter, nonmedical use of painkillers is 19 percent higher here than the national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Denver Post's Christopher N. Osher reports the state's Medicaid program is paying for opioid painkillers at such high doses that thousands of people are at increased risk. And their prescription drug abuse may have led to the overdose of as many as 174 Medicaid beneficiaries over a 12-month period.

One idea that could help became law last week when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill to modify the state's prescription drug monitoring program to better identify abuse and prevent overdoses.

And Medicaid officials are looking at establishing dosing and quantity limits and banning prescriptions of more than two long-acting opioid painkillers at a time.

These moves are necessary to stem what the CDC calls a national epidemic that seems to have hit Colorado exceptionally hard.

And more action will be needed to raise public awareness.

More than 300 people in Colorado die annually from prescription drug overdoses, Valuck said — equivalent to a plane crash every year.