‘Good Medicines’ vs. ‘Bad Drugs’ awareness could curb Rx abuse

ATLANTA —According to recent studies, anti-drug campaigns haven’t sunk in among a large and growing number of young people in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, released last month, found that 1-in-5 high school students had abused such prescription drugs as painkillers, like Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin (oxycodone), or psychiatric drugs, like Novartis’ Ritalin (methylphenidate). Last year was the first year in which the biennial survey assessed prescription drug abuse among high school students.

Abuse of prescription drugs has grown rapidly in the United States. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, pain relievers were the most commonly abused drugs after marijuana among those ages 12 years and older during 2008. A recent study conducted by SAMHSA and the CDC showed that emergency room visits related to prescription painkillers more than doubled between 2004 and 2008, rising from 144,644 visits to 305,885.

“These alarming findings provide one more example of how the misuse of prescription pain relievers is impacting lives and our healthcare system,” SAMHSA administrator Pamela Hyde said. “This public health threat requires an allout effort to raise awareness of the public about proper use, storage and disposal of these powerful drugs.”

Some in the private sector have sought to make such an effort. Drug maker Cephalon announced on June 23 that it had formed a partnership with the American Pharmacists Association and the American Chronic Pain Association to expand a campaign to raise awareness about prescription drug abuse. The program, called “When Good Medicines Become Bad Drugs,” includes a website, GoodMedicinesBadDrugs.com, and educational materials distributed to select pharmacies across the country.

“Prescription medicine abuse is a growing concern in our country, so we need to use every available channel to communicate about safe use,” APhA EVP and CEO Thomas Menighan said. “As pharmacists, we promote public understanding of risks and benefits of prescription medications.”

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