For almost a decade, Florida has been ground zero in the nation’s struggle against prescription drug abuse. So-called “pain clinics” became a common part of the Florida landscape, leading to an epidemic of the misuse and abuse of opioids.
The Florida Legislature responded to the proliferation of pain clinics with new regulations and from 2010 to 2012 death rates from prescription drugs decreased 23 percent. Florida’s efforts to curb the inappropriate prescribing of opioid pain medicines have resulted in better standards of care with closer monitoring of those suffering from chronic pain.
Because of these new standards of care, patients with chronic non-malignant pain are now treated only by physicians who have been trained and certified to treat the special needs of patients living with chronic pain. While this is great progress for patients living with chronic pain, there are others who seek to use opioids for non-medical purposes.
Diversion is when someone other than the patient gets the medicine. Unfortunately, many abusers get the medicines from the cabinet of a family member or friend and use them for recreational purposes.
The preferred method of abusing opioids is to crush or chew the pill and snort or inject the medicine to achieve a high similar to heroin. Misuse of opioids also results in dangerous overdose situations that increase emergency room visits and, too often, death.
The FDA has been developing guidelines for manufacturers to develop safer opioid analgesic products that contain the active opioid, but cannot be crushed, chewed, snorted or injected. Abuse deterrent formulations are FDA approved to provide the necessary pain relief and also have properties that deter a user from altering these medications.
Abuse deterrent opioids are a step toward the goal of providing safer opioid analgesics to patients who need these medicines while reducing the risk for diversion and non-medical use.
The Legislature should approve SB 422/HB 363 as this legislation will give physicians the ability to prescribe abuse-deterrent formulations when appropriate.
Michael Ruppal is the Executive Director of The AIDS Institute. Column courtesy of Context Florida.