New White House Strategy Targets Oxy Pill Mills

By Dirk Hanson 04/19/11

A million doctors would undergo new training for Oxy prescriptions under a White House drug plan unveiled today.

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Drug Czar Kerlikowske unveils new plan.
Photo via publicbroadcasting

The Obama Administration announced plans today to cut prescription drug abuse by 15% over the next five years. Gil Kerlikowske, President Barack Obama’s national drug policy director, said in an interview with the Associated Press: “The key is that everyone realizes there is no magic answer to this. It’s a really complex problem.” The wide-ranging federal plan will include greater education for prescribing physicians, media campaigns, a structured method of throwing out old or unwanted pills—and, fittingly, given that the announcement was made in Miami—a push for prescription databases in every state (See our story, "Why Florida's New Gov Fought to Save the State's Poison "Pill Mills").

AP reports that part of the plan would require more than a million doctors “to undergo training on proper prescription practices as a condition for their ability to prescribe the highly addictive drugs known as opioids.” Doctors are already required to obtain DEA licenses for prescribing addictive drugs, but the new plans are intended to create a comprehensive education and training format for prescribing physicians. Unfortunately, there was no mention of over-the-counter sales of naloxone for opiate overdose—a move harm reductionists say would result in immediate life-saving benefits. It is a fine line to walk: Assuring access to painkillers for patients who desperately need them, while preventing black market abuse and drug-related deaths. And while 15% doesn't seem like much, it would be a foothold in the long process of digging America out of its new opiate crisis.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]