Increased Opioid Abuse Raising State Concerns

George Lloyd, MD, a physician from Butler who specializes in addiction medicine, told lawmakers during a late January hearing on opioid abuse that findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are alarming and highlight the need to address this growing problem.

Dr. Lloyd was speaking on behalf of the Foundation of the Pennsylvania Medical Society at a hearing of the Pennsylvania House Human Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Gene DiGirolamo.

House Bill 544, the focus of the hearing, asks the Office of Attorney General to investigate the proliferation of prescription opioid drugs across this commonwealth. The bill would also establish the Pennsylvania Opioid Recovery Fund to fund treatment of addiction to prescription and other drugs.  The committee heard testimony from several health care and law enforcement officials.

“The CDC reports drug overdose rates in the United States have more than tripled since 1990,” Dr. Lloyd said. “Over 36,000 people died in 2008 from drug overdoses, and most of these were caused by prescription drugs.”

Dr. Lloyd said that 92 people died from drug overdoses in Westmoreland County last year, or approximately 25.5 per 100,000 people in that county.

He also advocated these steps to decrease the opioid overdose death rate in Pennsylvania:

  • Implementing a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program statewide to include schedule II, III, IV and V medications
  • Establishing guidelines for prescribing opioids for the treatment of chronic, non-terminal pain
  • Educating the public about the danger of opioids and sedative-hypnotic drugs, especially in combination
  • Initiating drug take-back programs

The Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) has developed a series of six one-hour CME webinars to help educate physicians and other health care providers on the appropriate use of long-acting and extended release opioids.

Through its Pills for Ills campaign, PAMED also provides an educational booklet to help physicians identify red flags related to pill-seeking doctor shoppers, while also suggesting screening tools to separate patients with true pain from scammers.

As part of Gov. Tom Corbett’s effort to help tackle prescription drug abuse, up to 250 disposal boxes are being placed in secure locations across the state.