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Linda Chalat
Linda Chalat
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Prescription Painkillers Pose Danger

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To halt prescription drug abuse, the nation’s fast-growing drug problem, Congress is seeking special training for doctors and other health care workers before they are allowed to prescribe powerful drugs such as OxyContin, White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said Tuesday.

The Obama administration’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan calls on Congress to amend the Controlled Substances Act to require that health care practitioners learn appropriate uses for opioid medicines and how to screen patients for drug abuse. Opioids, such as hydrocodone, are synthetic drugs that are closely associated with the effects of opium and can be used to treat severe pain. They also can be highly addictive. According to the FDA, extended-release and long-acting opioids, including OxyContin and 11 other painkillers, are widely mis-prescribed, misused and abused,

The DEA, Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services endorsed the plan. The FDA told drug manufacturers Tuesday to create educational materials about their opioid painkillers. Independent medical educators will use the materials to teach doctors how to properly prescribe them before the doctors are licensed to do so.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy also wants every state to adopt prescription drug monitoring programs, which allow a prescriber to reference a database to determine whether a patient has several narcotic prescriptions. Thirty-five states have such databases now. The federal government cannot require states to create the monitoring programs, but it does offer grants to encourage state participation.