Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that 46 Americans die every day from prescription drug overdoses, which adds up to nearly 17,000 deaths annually.
Novus Medical Detox Center, a Florida-based detox center serving high-dosage drug abuse patients, states that the reason behind the high number of fatalities lies in inadequate drug education.
A Novus press release says the U.S. FDA has implemented a drug education program that seeks to educate doctors who prescribe addictive painkillers, as well as the patients who are taking them. The program’s mission is “to teach doctors about proper opiate prescribing for pain patients to minimize the risks of diversion and addiction.”
The United Nation’s World Drug Report 2014 stated that in 2012, 6.1% (19 million) of Americans abused prescription opioids, including morphine, codeine, OxyContin, and Vicodin. This figure categorizes the U.S. as a country that abuses prescription drugs more than any other country in the world. In an effort to lower the number of people harmed by these drugs, Novus warns Americans to exercise caution when receiving a new prescription from a physician, and to ask questions related to its side effects.
“Intentionally or not, Americans may be underestimating the highly addictive nature of drugs such as opioids,” states Novus Executive Director Kent Runyon. “It may start as nothing more than filling a prescription for legitimate pain, but overdose may result when a patient seeks to elicit a stronger high from these drugs.”
Can packaging/labeling play a role in reducing such abuse? Runyon says, “It would be very prudent for all patients to take advantage of the free face-to-face pharmacist consultation and specific patient medication education material offered on each visit to the pharmacy when prescriptions are picked up. With the Rx drug abuse epidemic that is ravaging our country, it would be more than wise because people’s lives are at stake.Understanding the education material could be a requirement before being able to be dispensed the medications—as an additional precaution to what the MDs should be doing when they prescribe. Pharmacists and MDs and the healthcare packaging industry should work together to create best practices that protect the American people.Knowledge is power and fosters responsibility.I know of many patients, that had they known the consequences of Rx medications on their well-being would have been more cautious in taking them.”
In a Feb. 6, 2013 article on its Website titled, “FDA’s Efforts to Address the Misuse and Abuse of Opioids,” the agency said, “The primary tool used by FDA to inform prescribers and patients about the best uses of medications is the approved product label. FDA has made many changes to opioid medication labels in an effort to improve their use. As a part of this work, FDA routinely discusses labeling with Advisory Committees composed of outside experts.
“Beyond the printed label, FDA is also interested in exploring whether innovative package/storage designs for opioids can prevent or deter misuse and abuse by patients who receive legitimate opioid prescriptions, and misuse and abuse by others. Examples include a variety of systems designed to dispense medications as scheduled while preventing inappropriate access for abuse.”