Prescription drug abuse is the nation's fastest-growing drug problem, and the Obama administration recently announced steps to better address it.
"Epidemic: Responding to America's Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis" seeks to expand state prescription drug monitoring programs, recommends more convenient disposal methods to remove unused medications from homes, boosts education for patients and health care providers and cracks down on "pill mills" and doctor-shopping, according to federal officials.
The plan follows six months of collaboration among officials at the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and others.
As part of the strategy, the Food and Drug Administration recently announced a new program requiring manufacturers of long-acting and extended-release painkillers -- called opioids -- to do more to educate users of these medications and to provide materials to use when counseling patients.
"Abuse of prescription drugs, especially opioids, represents an alarming public health crisis." said Dr. Howard K. Koh, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "This plan, which coordinates a public health approach with a public safety approach, offers hope and health to our nation."
Officials said that unintentional drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury death in 17 states.
"Long-acting and extended-release opioid drugs ... are a necessary component of pain management for certain patients, but we know that they pose serious risks when used improperly," said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
For information on disposing of unused medicine, see the FDA's website at www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm101653.htm.
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)