Del. hosts Rx drug summit to combat "epidemic"

By Amy Cherry 3:18pm, November 16, 2012 - Updated 3:21pm, November 16, 2012
WDEL's Amy Cherry talks with Regina LaBelle in the White House Office of Nat'l Drug Control Policy about the spiraling problem of prescription drug abuse.
Victims come together with federal and state law enforcement and the health-care and pharmaceutical industries to combat the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

WDEL's Amy Cherry reports.

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How did the problem of prescription drug abuse spiral out of control?

"That's the million dollar question."

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The answer, Regina LaBelle, Chief of Staff for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, says there's far too many prescriptions floating in society right now combined with a social stigma.

"There is a general feeling that it is safe to use or misuse a prescription drug than another type of illicit drug," LaBelle says.

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To stop that attitude, she says, "We need more education, education of prescribers and education of patients and parents."

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That's part of the feds four-pronged approach that includes:

"Law enforcement to take care of the bad actors who are writing scripts for people who don't need these prescriptions, who are operating drug trafficking networks," says LaBelle.

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Their approach also includes proper disposal of prescription drugs like through the drug take back days the state has hosted.

LaBelle says all states need prescription monitoring programs that talk to one another as well, like Delaware's.

"It's great. Because it's newer, they've been able to take advantage of a lot of the new technology. That's one thing Delaware should be really proud of," she says.

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Attorney General Beau Biden, whose office organized the summit, says we can't arrest or treat our way out of this problem, and he's got a lot of questions.

"Whether doctors, for instance, are being sufficiently educated and given the facts about the highly addictive nature of the some of the products manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry," he says.

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He says these are drugs that have saved lived and helped a lot of people manage their pain, but he's not convinced that those prescribing them fully understand the medications' highly addictive qualities.

"Everyone needs a take, not just a law enforcement level, but at the manufacturing level, the supply level, I call it, and the demand side, and that's why I tried to bring everybody together that has anything to do with this entire problem and put them in one room."

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And there's proof that some of these efforts are working. LaBelle says the nation has seen a 14-percent drop in prescription drug abuse among 18-25 year olds in the past year.

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