Prescriptions for painkillers nationwide have nearly tripled in the past two decades, and fatal overdoses have reached epidemic levels.
Here in Hawaii, the problem is much the same.
We wanted to know what’s being done to stem the tide of prescription painkiller abuse.
The narcotic – oxycodone – is highly sought after for those who suffer from excruciating pain. But abuse of powerful painkillers have prompted federal regulators to crack down on doctors prescribing, and pharmacies dispensing, narcotic pain medication. A key state lawmaker says abuse of pain killers is getting out of hand throughout the country.
“We consume about 80% of all narcotic pain medication – 80%, How bad is it in Hawaii? It’s similar to the mainland.” Sen Josh Green said. “In Hilo, we had an outbreak of kids crushing pills and putting them in Coco Cola and having overdoses.”
The crackdown to prevent abuse and addiction has affected patients like this woman who has a rare medical condition that triggers a lot of pain – but has found it difficult to get the medicine she needs.
“It’s very hard. The pharmacies start to treat you bad.” said a painkiller patient who did not want to be identified. “Thankfully, I found a pharmacy that would help. I had to work closely with my doctor – I had to get a diagnosis on record, I had to take drug tests.”
She did not want to reveal her identity – because the medicine she takes – oxycodone – is highly prized by those who want to sell it illegally on the street. Her doctor is the chairman of a newly-formed working group that will deal with the issues surrounding the use of narcotics. He has a method to control what’s referred to as the abusive practice of shopping for a doctor or pharmacy to fulfill an alleged need for pain killers.
“Every patients who has a narcotic has to have a signed contract with us that they will receive it only from our office and designate a pharmacy they they will only go to to fill that medication.” Dr. Scott Miscovich said.
CVS/Caremark, which owns the more than 50 Longs Drugs stores in Hawaii, says it created a program last year that identifies providers with extreme patterns of prescribing controlled substances and suspends the dispensing of the medication if the providers cannot justify their habits.
The Executive Director of the Hawaii Medical Association also sits on the Working Group.
“We’re going to talk about these issues and see what it is we can do to make the streets safe from diverted drug prescriptions and at the same time keep our patients pain free as best we can.” Executive Director of Hawaii Medical Association Dr. Chris Flanders said.