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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Online Initiative Fights Prescription Drug Abuse

The prescription drug epidemic in America seems to be unstoppable despite efforts made on the federal and local level. Prescription drug monitoring systems have done little to hinder the trafficking of highly addictive drugs, like oxycodone and hydrocodone, because the systems are optional and the existing ones are not linked from state-to-state. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that 6.5 million Americans above the age of 12 used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons last year.

In the past few weeks the federal government has taken some major steps to combat the prescription drug problem in America, according to The Washington Post.

Following the lead of National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days, events that happen twice a year which allow citizens to give their unused prescription drugs to authorities at designated locations; the Obama administration has implemented measures that will allow people to return unused prescription drugs to hospitals, pharmacies and other places where they acquired the medications year-round. Every returned pill is one less opportunity for someone to acquire the drugs for illicit use.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency recently ruled to moved hydrocodone combination products (HCPs) from Schedule III to the more restrictive Schedule II designation. The ruling went into effect earlier this month, as a result doctors can no longer write hydrocodone prescriptions with more than two refills. This means that every 90 days patients need to return to their doctor for a check-up if they desire more of the medication.

Another weapon against prescription drug misuse is the Electronic Prescribing for Controlled Substances (EPCS) initiative. The EPCS is a rule by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) which allows pharmacies and care providers to handle prescriptions for controlled substances that are designated Schedule II-V entirely online. The program is currently voluntary but that could change in the near future as states attempt to crack down on the problem.

Handling all prescription narcotics electronically cuts down on prescription fraud by reducing the reliance on paper prescriptions, the article notes. The system allows doctors and pharmacies to identify potential cases of drug misuse.

If the system became mandatory for every state and was linked, it would become much more difficult for people to “doctor shop” which would eliminate a large part of the problem.

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