ATLANTA – The 2015 National Rx Drug Abuse Summit kicked off with a record-breaking crowd of 1,400 attendees from 49 states and Canada. Operation UNITE, a small non-profit organization from southern and eastern Kentucky, is hosting the four-day summit in Atlanta. It has grown to become the largest collaboration of professionals in the U.S. focused on a multi-faceted approach to the drug abuse epidemic across the country.

U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05), Chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, commended attendees for turning the conference into a movement for life-saving solutions.

“The Rx Summit has been a clear driving force for life-saving action and the results over the last four years have been overwhelming,” said Rogers, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. “Attendees have pushed for prescription drug monitoring system implementation and enhancements in their home states; they’ve pushed for more effective FDA policies; and advocated for state level legislation to beat back on prescription drug abuse.”

The drug abuse epidemic continues to take a toll on American lives. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), someone dies from a drug overdose every 12 minutes in the U.S.

“We must continue our urgent work to reduce prescription opioid misuse, expand access to evidence-based treatment, reduce stigma around substance use disorders, and engage the medical establishment in preventing and treating addiction,” said Michael Botticelli, Director of the ONDCP. “Chairman Rogers’ leadership on prescription drug abuse issues continues to be essential to our continued progress.”

The Honorable Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said one of the agency’s top priorities is combating opioid abuse.

“We believe that through evidence-informed interventions and bipartisan solutions we can work to end opioid drug-related dependence and overdose,” said Secretary Burwell. “I want to thank Chairman Rogers for all of his work both legislatively and through Operation UNITE. Because of his crucial leadership, the issues we’re talking about today have gained much needed attention and we are making progress.”

The Rx Summit brings together professionals from every spectrum, including medical research, which continues to reveal more information about addiction in the human body. Keynote speaker Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has served as an advocate in explaining the science of addiction.

“Biomedical science is vital to our nation’s response to the epidemic of prescription drug abuse,” said Dr. Collins. “NIH-supported research is providing the foundation for that response by illuminating the biology of opioid addiction through the BRAIN initiative and other programs, while our new Precision Medicine Initiative will help speed the translation of such discoveries into more individualized strategies for treatment and prevention.”

In his first week as Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Stephen Ostroff said he is committed to being a part of the national effort to curb drug abuse.

“The abuse of prescription drugs is a tragic and complex problem,” said Dr. Ostroff. “We’re attacking it on many fronts. We are pushing hard to develop the science and tools that are needed to win this battle. And, as always, it is the science that will drive our decisions – and our progress. What we are seeing in abuse deterrence formulations is a promising sign. It is one sign, of many, that suggests our efforts are starting to pay dividends.”

On Monday night, Oklahoma Governor Mary C. Fallin set the tone for the summit that continues through April 9, reminding attendees that prescription drug abuse is about “real stories, real people and real challenges.”