WASHINGTON - The Obama administration Tuesday unveiled a plan aimed at fighting what it calls the nation's "fastest-growing drug problem" -- the abuse of prescription drugs.
The program includes boosting awareness among patients and health care providers, cracking down on pill mills and "doctor shopping" and requiring drug manufacturers to develop education programs for doctors, as well as patients. White House Director of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske warned that accidental drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death in 17 states and represent an "unbelievably complex problem."
In Florida, he said, an average of 7 people die every day from unintentional drug overdoses.
"The toll our nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic has taken in communities nationwide is devastating,” he said. “We share a responsibility to protect our communities from the damage done by prescription drug abuse. This plan will build upon our already unprecedented efforts to coordinate a national response to this public health crisis by addressing the threat at the Federal, state, and local level.”
The plan -- which comes a week after Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he'd no longer object to a state prescription drug monitoring program -- calls on every state to develop such programs. It also recommends more convenient ways to remove unused medications from the home.
Kerlikowske noted that seven out of 10 prescription drug abusers obtained their drugs from friends or relatives. And it calls for the drug control policy office and the Drug Enforcement Agency to step up enforcement by targeting training to states with the highest need.
Kerlikowske said his office will ask for an increase in funding for drug prevention by $123 million and treatment programs by $99 million dollars for 2012, to train primary health care providers to intervene in emerging cases of drug abuse and to expand and improve specialty care for addiction.