New PA Attorney Says He’ll Go After Physicians For Overprescribing Opioids
As the opioid addiction and overdose crisis wages on, Pennsylvania officials and lawmakers seek to remain poised to battle the epidemic. The problem is a pervasive one, and because it is somewhat rooted in medical practice, it can’t be fought in the same manner as street drug addiction or alcoholism.
Last week, interim U.S. attorney Bruce Brandler (Middle District of Pennsylvania) announced an effort which reflects new laws and initiatives at the state and local levels. It is unique, however, because Brandler states that the region’s federal prosecutors will pursue charges against physicians and others for overprescribing opioids.
Indeed, this one of the problems that has fueled the epidemic. Opioids are both highly addictive and have a high potential for abuse. Once someone becomes dependent, they may seek out street drugs such as heroin in order to maintain their habit. It’s less expensive, and has become increasingly accessible to people of all socioeconomic classes.
This approach could help support new state laws focused on decreasing prescription opioid availability In addition, the state has established a prescription drug database that physicians and pharmacies can use to track patients’ prescription histories.
And based partially on guidelines issued earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, best new practices include smaller amounts of pills prescribed from emergency rooms, and unused medication disposal sites so that pills don’t fall into the hands of others.
Brandler also stated that overdose deaths will be his highest priority. Currently, around 8 Pennsylvanians die each day from opioid-related causes.
And because the crisis also requires expanding awareness, Brandler says his office will also present educational programs in school and prisons to help direct addicts into appropriate treatment. He also wants to increase information sharing with local law enforcement, and for first responders to receive training on how to collect and process crime scene evidence.
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~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology