The dangers of prescription drug abuse continue to be a huge concern for regulators at every level, including State AGs. This week at the National Association of Attorneys General Summer Meeting in Mackinac Island, Michigan, AGs continued their discussions of such abuse and possible tools to combat the problem, including prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) and public education campaigns.
Kentucky AG (and current NAAG Substance Abuse Committee co-chair) Jack Conway led the discussion, during which he highlighted his state’s PDMP as one of only three in the country whose use is mandated by doctors. AG Conway talked about the positive results of mandating doctors’ participation, despite initial pushback from doctors when the legislation was debated. Aaron Haslem, the former director of the State Medical Board of Ohio, focused on the necessity for states to collaborate and share information among their PDMPs. Michael Barnes, the Executive Director of the Center for Lawful Access and Abuse Deterrence (which advocates for market-based solutions to assist the government efforts in prescription drug abuse prevention plans), sounded a cautionary note. While he voiced support for PDMPs, he was concerned about patient privacy, stressing that law enforcement should not have unfettered access to the data in the systems.
During a panel on innovative AG outreach programs, AGs focused on education efforts to combat prescription drug abuse. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller talked about how he used funding from settlements with pharmaceutical companies to jump-start his prescription drug abuse education program (the “Bitter Pill Campaign”), which includes television, radio and the Internet. Mitchel Denham, Assistant Deputy AG to Kentucky AG Conway, discussed how his office and AG Conway have pushed the robust “Keep Kentucky Kids Safe Program” where Conway and program partners talk to students about the dangers of prescription drugs. Like Indiana, Kentucky uses funds (approximately $20M) from pharmaceutical settlements to pay for its program, as well as to help fund treatment facilities, another important component in combating the prescription drug abuse epidemic.
As laboratories of democracy, states will continue to use a variety of approaches to fight prescription drug abuse. As these discussions highlight, AGs have been, and will be, at the forefront of this fight.