Communities across the United States continue to be ravaged by the abuse of prescription drugs. It is time to bring all parties together to find data-driven solutions to this problem. Operation UNITE will coordinate the first national summit focusing only on the issue of prescription drug abuse.
The National Summit on Rx Drug Abuse will be held April 10-12, 2012, at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort in Orlando, Florida.
“I have been a long-time advocate for implementing and linking together state prescription drug monitoring programs so physicians, pharmacists and law enforcement agencies can be alerted to potential doctor-shoppers and abusers whether they are in Kentucky or visiting another state,” said Kentucky’s Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, who launched Operation UNITE in 2003.
“We cannot afford to ignore the fast-growing drug problem in America,” Rogers emphasized. “It impacts everything from medical expenses to workforce viability and it requires a multi-faceted approach with support, from not only state and national leaders, but also leaders on the ground in our rural and urban communities.”
UNITE is in the process of forming a National Advisory Board to guide program development and conference offerings and has partnered with Inquisit, a division of Amerinet, to identify, design and deliver cutting-edge continuing education programs for conference attendees.
“Diversion of prescription medications from their legitimate medical uses has become an epidemic that requires a coordinated national discussion,” said Karen Kelly, director of Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education). “The Summit will provide attendees an opportunity to learn from state and national leaders, local law enforcement officials, medical professionals, local advocates, treatment experts, educators and others who are finding success in battling this epidemic.”
In addition, Kelly said the event is intended to foster better understanding and cooperation among all groups and how that cooperation can lead to successful outcomes.
Prescription drug abuse in Kentucky has been well documented, but families everywhere are being impacted in alarming numbers.
“The prescription drug abuse problem can’t be solved in one state, with one simple strategy,” Rogers said. “I have rallied, along with fellow leaders in Washington and in state government, for more comprehensive strategies to educate the public, provide essential tools for law enforcement agencies, enhance treatment efforts, and stretch communication beyond state lines in this fight that is taking a toll on millions of families and communities every day.”
Rogers, Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (CA-45) and former Congressman William Delahunt (MA) launched the bi-partisan Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse on June 3, 2010. The Caucus aims to raise awareness of abuse, and to work towards innovative and effective policy solutions incorporating treatment, prevention, law enforcement and research. Representatives Stephen Lynch (MA-09) and Connie Mack (FL-14) are also original caucus members.
“As co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse, I am proud of the impressive strides undertaken by UNITE to bring together national leaders, interested parties, and stakeholders at the upcoming national prescription drug abuse summit,” Rogers said. “The exchange of ideas and educational opportunities are sure to facilitate the types of conversations and collaboration our country needs to end prescription drug abuse for good.”
“The problem is growing worse rapidly,” said John Eadie, director of the Prescription Monitoring Program Center of Excellence at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. “The rate of drug-related deaths continues to rise. There is no longer the time to just react when prescription drug abuse worsens. We need to become proactive and intervene early.”
Eadie, director of an initiative to evaluate and assist prescription drug monitoring programs (PMPs) nationwide, is working with UNITE to craft a course of action to address drug addiction, workplace safety, diversion and other issues with input from all sectors of the health care professions.
Located at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, the PMP Center of Excellence serves as an informational clearinghouse and helps identify best practices in prescription monitoring.
While the basic function of a PMP is to track filled prescriptions for controlled substances dispensed by pharmacies, these programs vary greatly in data collection, how the data are analyzed, and how they are reported and used. By encouraging innovative uses of PMP data, disseminating best practices, and providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and fostering partnerships, the Center is working to maximize the impact of PMPs in controlling diversion and abuse of controlled substances.
“We need to find ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness (of prescription drug monitoring) in order to further interdict this epidemic,” Eadie noted. “Operation UNITE knows first-hand the debilitating effect of the prescription drug abuse epidemic on communities.”
“This summit will give stakeholders from across America an opportunity to meet, share experiences and plan to protect our families, schools and work places while still meeting the needs of those for whom the medications are crucial,” Eadie continued. “I commend Operation UNITE for this bold leadership.”
Earlier this year, White House Office of Drug Control Policy Director R. Gil Kerlikowske released the 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan. That plan focuses on four major areas to reduce prescription drug abuse: education, monitoring, proper disposal and enforcement.
The ONDCP report, titled “Epidemic: Responding To America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis,” noted prescription drug abuse “is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem.”
Citing data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the report said “nearly one-third of people aged 12 and over who used drugs for the first time in 2009 began by using a prescription drug non-medically.”
The survey also found that “over 70 percent of people who abused prescription pain relievers got them from friends or relatives, while approximately 5 percent got them from a drug dealer or from the Internet.”
“Additionally, the latest Monitoring the Future study – the nation’s largest survey of drug use among young people showed that prescription drugs are the second most-abused category of drugs after marijuana,” the ONDCP report stated.
The report notes that efforts to combat prescription drug abuse need to address four critical areas:
• Education is critical for the public and for healthcare providers to increase awareness about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, and about ways to appropriately dispense, store, and dispose of controlled substance medications.
• Enhancement and increased utilization of prescription drug monitoring programs – such as the Kentucky All-Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) system – will help to identify “doctor shoppers” and detect therapeutic duplication and drug-drug interactions.
• The development of consumer-friendly and environmentally-responsible prescription drug disposal programs may help to limit the diversion of drugs, as most non-medical users appear to be getting the drugs from family and friends.
• It is important to provide law enforcement agencies with support and the tools they need to expand their efforts to shut down “pill mills” and to stop “doctor shoppers” who contribute to prescription drug trafficking.
For more information about the National Summit on Rx Drug Abuse contact Event Manager Sarah Centimole at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-866-678-6483.