High-Powered Alliance to Tackle Prescription-Drug Abuse

The new group brings industry organizations together for the first time to address the epidemic.

A picture taken on September 13, 2012 in Paris shows pills and medicines. AFP/MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/GettyImages)
National Journal
Sophie Novack
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Sophie Novack
Feb. 28, 2014, 10:07 a.m.

Some of the biggest play­ers in the phar­ma­ceut­ic­al sup­ply chain have teamed up to find solu­tions to the grow­ing prob­lem of pre­scrip­tion-drug ab­use.

The Al­li­ance to Pre­vent the Ab­use of Medi­cines is com­posed of the Amer­ic­an Med­ic­al As­so­ci­ation, CVS Care­mark, Teva Phar­ma­ceut­ic­als, Car­din­al Health, the Health­care Dis­tri­bu­tion Man­age­ment As­so­ci­ation, and Prime Thera­peut­ics.

The group touts mem­ber­ship in­volve­ment across the sup­ply chain — from man­u­fac­turer to dis­trib­ut­or to phar­macy to phys­i­cian — as key to the suc­cess of its mis­sion.

“In or­der to truly move the needle on an is­sue as com­plex and massive as pre­scrip­tion-drug ab­use, there has to be co­oper­a­tion and in­put along the en­tire phar­ma­ceut­ic­al sup­ply chain,” Al­li­ance spokes­per­son Dani­elle Ha­gen wrote in an email. “The al­li­ance has come to­geth­er to provide just that. Each mem­ber or­gan­iz­a­tion re­cog­nizes the need for a com­pre­hens­ive pub­lic health ap­proach to pre­scrip­tion drug ab­use, and each comes to the table with valu­able ex­pert­ise.”

Pre­scrip­tion-drug ab­use has been clas­si­fied as an epi­dem­ic by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. Ac­cord­ing to data from the Na­tion­al Sur­vey on Drug Use and Health, ini­ti­ation rates for non­med­ic­al pain re­liev­er use are second only to marijuana, with 2 mil­lion or more new users every year since 2002 — 500,000 of whom have nev­er used an­oth­er il­li­cit drug.

Pre­scrip­tion-drug ab­use is dif­fi­cult to tackle be­cause it in­volves many dif­fer­ent play­ers and mov­ing parts along the drug sup­ply chain. Thus far, piece­meal le­gis­la­tion that ad­dresses parts of the prob­lem has largely been in­ef­fect­ive.

The Al­li­ance hopes to take a broad­er look at the pre­scrip­tion-drug mar­ket and work with le­gis­lat­ors on Cap­it­ol Hill to find more com­pre­hens­ive solu­tions.

The group plans to main­tain a na­tion­al policy per­spect­ive, while also work­ing with state law­makers. The first fo­cus is on im­prov­ing the Pre­scrip­tion Drug Mon­it­or­ing Pro­gram, which var­ies a great deal from state to state. The Al­li­ance sent a let­ter to the Na­tion­al Gov­ernors As­so­ci­ation that was shared at the winter meet­ing last week, call­ing for a more ro­bust and in­ter­op­er­able sys­tem of PDMPs. The group re­ceived a pos­it­ive re­sponse from those gov­ernors present, ac­cord­ing to a spokes­per­son.

The Al­li­ance is still work­ing through solu­tions on what will likely be a long-term ef­fort, and de­clined to give fur­ther de­tails on oth­er pos­sible pro­pos­als.

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