Carol Smith's picture

Some solutions for ending the prescription drug epidemic

A mother who lost her son. A cop who lost his career. A family who lost their home. These are just a few of the devastating human costs we uncovered in the course of delving into the prescription painkiller epidemic that grips Washington state. Their stories are shocking, but not rare.

While Washington has just passed the strictest state law in the country to try to curb the epidemic, and while we have launched a number of innovative pilot programs here, the experts we spoke with, including addicts themselves, said there is still much work to be done before we can remove ourselves from the list of worst states for prescription drug deaths.

Some of the challenges that remain

  • • Washington's Prescription Monitoring Program, a step in the right direction, still lacks permanent funding, and clinicians are not required to consult it before prescribing narcotic pain medication. Nor is the data shared, yet, with licensing agencies, or with neighboring states along the corridors where prescription drugs are trafficked.
  • • Washington's emergency rooms, which have long been a place where people hooked on prescription painkillers have sought drugs to feed their habits, have no way to systematically share data across the state about multiple users of the ER.
  • • Insurance companies don’t yet provide enough coverage for alternative forms of pain treatment, including physical therapy, counseling, acupuncture, massage, or other alternatives.
Carol Smith's picture

Patient No. 11 speaks out in hepatitis C case

One of the patients infected with hepatitis C by a dirty needle at Rose Medical Center in Colorado gives a compelling account of what it was like to discover a hospital employee had put patients at risk because of her own drug habit. Patient No. 11 spoke to the Denver Post's Michael Booth.

The employee, who was using operating room needles to inject herself with the painkiller fentanyl, then replacing the needles where they could be reused, was indicted this week on 42 counts of product tampering and obtaining a controlled substance by deceit. So far nineteen people appear to have contracted hepatitis C from the dirty needles. The employee has already been charged with three criminal counts related to stealing the pharmaceutical narcotic.  Felisa Cadrona of the Denver Post has that story.