The Clinical Staff at One80Center fully supports California Attorney General Kamala Harris in her efforts to convince Governor Jerry Brown to restore funding for a prescription drug monitoring program. Known as CURES, it is a program that One80Center believes is a key to combating prescription drug abuse and prescription drug overdose deaths in the state. California should be a trailblazer in funding such a program, setting a standard for the rest of the country that hopefully will lead to a Federal funding to create a national prescription drug monitoring program and database.
Prescription Drug Monitoring Essential
A once effective system, CURES has been severely undermined by budget cuts. Rather than being realized to its full potential, the CURES program is lingering in the financial purgatory of California’s depleted state budget. The CURES database contains detailed information on prescription narcotics, including the names of patients, the doctors prescribing the drugs and the pharmacies that dispense them. Designed to help physicians detect “doctor-shopping” patients who dupe multiple physicians into prescribing drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Xanax, CURES was helping to turn back the tide of the prescription drug epidemic when it was being funded.
After Governor Brown’s unveiled his proposed $97.7-billion budget that actually projects a surplus, Harris immediately recommended that the extra funds should be used to restore funding to the CURES program. The California Attorney General said it was up to the state to make sure the money was “spent wisely… This includes smart investments that benefit Californians, such as restoring funding for the state’s prescription drug-monitoring program.”
CURES Is The Nation’s Oldest State Program
CURES is the nation’s oldest and largest prescription drug-monitoring program and once served as a model for other states. Today, it has fallen on hard times, reflecting the state of such programs across the country during the recent recession. What is such a tragedy is that the recession opened the door for the prescription drug abuse epidemic to spiral out of control. CURES data could have been used to save countless lived by monitoring physicians whose prescribing puts patients at risk. But it hasn’t been used to even a fraction of its full potential and is an effective tool that has been tossed aside. Such a choice is nothing less than criminal considering what is at stake.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that states use such data to keep tabs on doctors. Today, despite the recession, at least half a dozen states do so. It is time that California joins that list and restores its once trailblazing reputation when it comes to the fight against prescription drug abuse. Shortly after Harris succeeded Brown as attorney general, the governor gutted the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement and the funding for CURES in 2011; Harris kept the program alive with about $400,000 in revenue from the Medical Board of California and other licensing boards. But it is down to one employee and has no enforcement capacity. It is a guard dog without teeth.
Will California Fund The Cures Program?
State officials have estimated it would cost about $2.8 million to make CURES more accessible and easier to use, and $1.6 million more per year to keep it running. However, officials say the program — with little or no additional financial resources — could now be used to identify potentially rogue doctors. Bob Pack, an Internet entrepreneur, has advocated using CURES more vigorously to track reckless physicians and pharmacies as well as doctor-shopping patients. He became active on the issue after a driver high on painkillers and alcohol struck and killed his two young children in the Bay Area suburb of Danville in 2003.
An aide to Harris said restoring the CURES program is a high priority. “She’s committed to fixing the database and making it as strong as possible,” said Travis LeBlanc, special assistant attorney general. The Clinical Staff at One80Center fully supports such efforts in the future. It is time to get CURES back on track and do everything we can to stem the tide of the prescription drug abuse epidemic before more lives are carelessly lost.
ONE80CENTER Alert: Prescription Drug Abuse Is The Fastest Growing Addiction In The United States And Getting Worse
Prescription drug abuse is spiraling out of control in the United States. As the fastest growing addiction in the United States, the prescription drug problem is so frustrating to doctors and the clinical team at ONE80CENTER because these drugs are meant to help. Unfortunately, in the wrong hands, prescription drugs, particularly painkillers like OxyContin and Percodan, are doing more harm than good, and the cost is growing day by day.
Prescription Drug Abuse Spiraling
“Thousands of people are dying. In 16 states, prescription drug overdoses has overtaken motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of accidental death,” says Dr. John Dreyzehner, the director of the Virginia Department of Health. As a member of One Care of Southwest Virginia, Dr. Dreyzehener has joined a group of doctors, social workers and other recovery personnel trying to address the growing prescription drug abuse explosion. As Dr. Dreyzehner explains, “This is a national problem.”
ONE80CENTER supports both treatment and prevention solutions, such as prescription drug monitoring programs that include pill counts and drug screens to detect co-occurring disorders and prescription drug abuse. “This is complicated. there is no one easy magic bullet solution to the drug abuse misuse problem,” says Dr. Dreyzehner. The Virginia group believes there are four-lines of defense: proper disposal areas, education, enforcement and monitoring.
A recent survey paints a troubling picture for hospital patients in need of medication because of the abuse that is spiraling out of control. According to the American Hospital Association, the drugs that legitimate patients need might not be there when a doctor prescribes it. More than 99% of hospitals have experienced one or more drug shortages in the past six months, and nearly half have reported 21 or more shortages in that time. In fact, experts are calling it one of the worst drug shortages in history.
Prescription Drug Abuse Leads To Drug Shortages
The reason for these drug shortages, ranging from Adderall and Xanax to OxyContin and Percodan, is the rising levels of prescription drug abuse. Everyday people in your life, people you would not suspect, are becoming prescription drug addicted and drug-dependent. Such people are not buying on the street, but they are doctor shopping and hospital shopping. As a result, the shortages are caused by unexpected surges in demand. ONE80CENTER believes a line has to be drawn in the sand before there are no places left to draw lines and the problem becomes practically unstoppable.
For The First Time Since The US Began Keeping Track, Drug Deaths Outnumber Traffic Fatalities Due To The Prescription Drugs Epidemic
The prescription drug fatality blog has been adapted from an excellent report in the Los Angeles Times by Lisa Girion, Scott Glover and Doug Smith.
According to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Drugs exceeded motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death in 2009, killing at least 37,485 people nationwide. This change has been propelled by a significant increase in prescription narcotic overdoses. While most major causes of preventable death are declining, drugs are the exception to the rule. The death toll has doubled in the last decade, now claiming a life every 14 minutes. By contrast, traffic accidents have been dropping for decades because of huge investments in auto safety. The clinical experts at ONE80CENTER wish to know when such investments are going to be made in drug awareness education and prevention.
The growing prescription drug problem, which ONE80CENTER experiences with our clients firsthand on a daily basis, should now be characterized as nothing less than an epidemic. This is the first time that drugs have accounted for more fatalities than traffic accidents since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979. Fueling the increase is the abuse of prescription painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol.
Among the most commonly abused are OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and Percocet. Overdoses from these drugs now add up to far more than both heroin and cocaine combined. It is time for America to realize that the problem is not the drug dealers in the streets, but the prescription bottles in their own medicine cabinets.
The seeds of the problem were planted more than a decade ago by well-meaning efforts by doctors to mitigate suffering. In addition, pharmaceutical companies initiated aggressive sales whenever a new drug came on the market. OxyContin is a perfect example of how such a campaign went terribly wrong. In hindsight, the liberalized prescription of pain drugs could very well have led directly to the problem at hand.
“In some ways, prescription drugs are more dangerous than illicit ones because users don’t have their guard up”, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Opferman, head of a county task force on prescription drug-related crimes. “People feel they are safer with prescription drugs because you get them from a pharmacy and they are prescribed by a doctor. Younger people believe they are safer because they see their parents taking them. It doesn’t have the same stigma as using street narcotics.”
Public health policies that have improved traffic safety over the years through the use of seat belts, air bags and other measures. Such progress stands in stark contrast to the nation’s record on prescription drugs. Even though more people are driving more miles, traffic fatalities have dropped by more than a third since the early 1970s to 36,284 in 2009. The Centers for Disease Control collects data on all causes of death each year and analyzes them to identify health problems. Drug-induced deaths are mostly accidental overdoses, but also include suicides.
Drug fatalities more than doubled among teens and young adults between 2000 and 2008, years for which more detailed data are available. Deaths more than tripled among people aged 50 to 69. In terms of sheer numbers, the death toll is highest among people in their 40s. Overdose deaths involving prescription painkillers, including OxyContin and Vicodin, and anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium and Xanax more than tripled between 2000 and 2008.
The rise in deaths corresponds with doctors prescribing more painkillers and anti-anxiety medications. The number of prescriptions for the strongest pain pills filled at California pharmacies, for instance, increased more than 43% since 2007 and the doses grew by nearly 50%, according to data collected by the state. Those prescriptions provide relief to pain sufferers but also fuel a thriving black market. Prescription drugs are traded on Internet chat rooms that buzz with offers of “vikes,” “percs” and “oxys” for $10 to $80 a pill. An addiction to prescription drugs can be expensive; a heavy OxyContin habit can run twice as much as a heroin addiction, authorities say.
The most commonly abused prescription drug, hydrocodone, also is the most widely prescribed drug in America, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Better known as Vicodin, the pain reliever is prescribed more often than the top cholesterol drug and the top antibiotic. “We have an insatiable appetite for this drug — insatiable,” Joseph T. Rannazzisi, a top DEA administrator, told a group of pharmacists at a regulatory meeting in Sacramento.
In April, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy announced initiatives aimed at preventing prescription drug abuse. The plans include a series of drug take-back days, modeled after similar programs involving weapons. Another initiative would develop voluntary courses to train physicians on how to safely prescribe pain drugs, a curriculum that is not widely taught in medical schools. Why it is not taught in medical schools is a baffling question.
What is frustrating is that initial attempts to reverse the trend in drug deaths — such as state-run prescription drug-monitoring programs aimed at “doctor-shopping” addicts — do not appear to be working. “What’s really scary is we don’t know a lot about how to reduce prescription deaths,” said Amy S.B. Bohnert, a researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School. As Bohnert explains: “It’s a wonderful medical advancement that we can treat pain, but we haven’t figured out the safety belt yet.” At ONE80CENTER, we recognize the growing problem and fully back all attempts to stop this modern plague that is striking at the heart of our country.