Stop Medicine Abuse: An appeal to parents

October 20, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month in the US and the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) is actively campaigning for this observance. The organization is especially reaching out to parents to raise awareness on this issue. Here are the reasons why:

But you may ask: how do these kids get access to prescription drugs? They are not usually the drugs one can buy on the streets, right? You may not believe it but the main source of medications that are abused is none other than your medicine cabinet at home. Yes, the home that is probably in your bathroom. Have you checked its contents lately?

According to the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, the 3 classes of prescription drugs most commonly abused are:

National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month is aimed to help raise awareness and educate people – children, young people and their parents – on this problem.

For this purpose, here are some materials provided by CADCA and other supporting agencies:

Check out also relevant previous posts on Medicine Abuse:

Unintentional drug poisoning a.k.a. overdose

August 4, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

We usually associate drug overdose with celebrities: Anna Nicole Smith, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, to mention the few recent. But the rate of drug overdose, also called unintentional or accidental drug poising is actually on the rise among the general population during the 20 years.

Dr. Leonard J. Paulozzi, a Medical Epidemiologist with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines unintentional drug overdose.

“A poisoning is defined as the effect of taking too much of any substance. Drug poisonings are what people usually call “drug overdoses.” They are called “unintentional” — a term that we prefer over “accidental” — when the person did not intend to harm themselves. For most drug overdoses today in the United States, the person has intended to take the drug, but that doesn’t mean that they intended to harm themselves. If they did intend to harm themselves, the overdose is classified as a suicide.”

These “accidents” often lead to deaths. In the 1970s and 1980s, less than 2 per 100,000 people died of drug overdose. The rate started increasing in the 1990s and has been continuously rising. In 2007, the rate in the US is about 10 deaths per 100,000 population, according to CDC data.

In fact, drug overdose currently ranks second only to vehicular accidents as cause of death in the US and the gap is closing rapidly. “For the first time in 2007, unintentional drug poisoning exceeds motorized vehicle traffic and suicide as the overall leading cause of injury death in Ohio.”

Health experts cannot exactly pinpoint the cause(s) of the rise in drug overdose. However, it is clear that increase in unintentional drug poisoning is not only due to illegal drugs but mainly due to non-medical use of prescription drugs, especially opioids and benzodiazepines. Availabiliy and access to prescription drugs probably plays a major role, e.g. the main source of the medications in the medicine cabinet at home. There is a very strong correlation between the number of prescriptions filled for a drug and the rate of abuse of a drug. The most commonly abused prescription drugs are those that are most commonly prescribed. An example cited is alprazolam, the most prescribed benzodiazepine also ranks first as the most commonly abused in this class of drugs.

Overdose happens regardless of age but is more prevalent in certain age groups. Looking at the age breakdown, the following age groups are ranked from the highest to the lowest risk:

  1. 45- to 54-year-olds
  2. 35- to 44-year-old range
  3. 25- to 34-year-olds
  4. 15- to 24-year-olds
  5. 55- to 64-year-olds

Experts, however, are concerned that the rate among teens is rapidly increasing.

According to psychiatrists Dr. Richard H. Weisler

“The annual Monitoring the Future Drug Survey suggests close to 10% of high school seniors are using prescription opioids in a year; 3% are using cocaine; and almost 1% are using heroin.”

Bad Ad educates docs about misleading drug ads

May 12, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Why does one doctor prefer this drug, his colleague that drug? Is a doctor’s selection decision based on clinical evidence and optimized for the benefit of the patient? Or is there another reason?

Thus here comes Bad Ad…but what is Bad Ad?

It is the latest educational outreach program of the US FDA targeting health care professionals about their role in ensuring prescription drug advertising and promotion that is truthful and not misleading. Pharmaceutical companies will do their best to market their products. However, in the case of prescription drugs, sales largely depends on the preference of health care providers. It is not uncommon that the industry provides incentives to doctors to encourage them to prescribe certain products. There is where Bad Ad comes in.

What constitutes as appropriate or inappropriate drug promotion and advertising? A line has to be drawn somewhere and Bad Ad tries to define what is acceptable and what are violations.

According to a letter by US FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg to health care providers:

“The purpose of the Bad Ad Program is twofold: first, to let you know about important steps FDA is taking to prevent misleading or inaccurate promotion of prescription drugs by drug companies; and second, to request your help identifying and reporting these activities. With your valuable assistance, FDA can be more effective in limiting the number of misleading promotional messages directed to health care professionals.”

Aside from recognizing misleading drug advertisement and inappropriate prescription behavior of doctors, the Bad Ad program provides a platform for reporting such misconduct. This may be viewed by many as “ratting” and many health professionals are reluctant to report something that can badly affect a colleague’s career, thus become branded as traitor within his professional circle. However, more and more people are coming forward to report misconduct and unethical behavior with the passage of the Whistleblower’s Act. (In a related topic, check out Testifying Against Your Partner or Colleague: Honor or Betrayal? in Medscape).

The Bad Ad program will be administered by the Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications (DDMAC) and is being introduced and presented at medical conferences and meetings.

Bad Ad focuses mainly on health professionals. For consumers, a web-based program called EthicAd was set up in 2008. The FDA site shows examples of different types of ads and correct and incorrect ads. Consumers are encouraged to report what they think are violations.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.