More Americans die every year from drug overdoses than do in car accidents, and a growing number of those deaths are tied to prescription drug abuse. Now, President Obama and the federal government are taking a renewed stand to help combat the growing prescription drug and heroin epidemic that has been sweeping the nation.
The President announced that over 40 health care provider groups, representing medical doctors to educators, have committed to completing opioid prescriber training for more than 540,000 providers in the next 2 years. The groups, which include the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pain Medicine, plan to double the number of physicians certified to prescribe buprenorphine, up to 60,000 providers, in the next 3 years; double the number of providers that prescribe naloxone; double the number of providers registered with their State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs in the next 2 years; and reach over 4 million providers with awareness messaging regarding opioid abuse, prescribing practices, and how they can be part of the solution.
“Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medications in 2012 – enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills,” the White House noted in a press release. “Heroin belongs to the same class of drugs, and four in five heroin users started out by misusing prescription opioid pain medications.”
The call for improved prescribing practices stretches beyond private health care providers, though. The President also issued a memorandum to Federal departments and agencies that requires all Federal health care professionals who prescribe controlled substances to undergo prescribing training. Additionally, all Federal departments and agencies that directly provide, contract to provide, reimburse for, or facilitate access to health benefits, will conduct a review to help identify barriers to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, and will develop actions plans to address these barriers.
Beyond health care providers, national media and professional organizations including CBS, ABC, the New York Times, Google, the NBA, and MLB will donate media space for public service announcements documenting the risks of prescription drug misuse in collaboration with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
For more information on how CVS Health, the Fraternal Order of Police, and other businesses and organizations are helping to combat prescription drug misuse, go here.