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Death By Pills: How Can It Stop?

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
When People magazine features this headline—“Deadly Pills: One Death Every 24 Minutes”—you know you will have the attention of the American public. And when the stories that follow report the fact that drugs are the #1 accidental killer in the United States with “a vast majority of them caused by prescription meds,” you also know that the pharmacist will be asked probing questions by their customers. How can this be true? And more to the point, how can it stop?
 
The warning in the article is clear—most overdose deaths are caused by pills right from people’s medicine cabinets, with a 90% increase in deaths by poisoning them from 1999 to 2008, many of them prescription drugs. More than 12 million Americans 12 years and older have abused prescription drugs. And 61 pharmaceutical drug deaths occur each day in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
The stories are sad and true. A young mother takes antidepressants, mixed with alcohol and hydrocodone pills, and never wakes up, only 2 weeks after her daughter is born. A teenager from Utah, which has one of the highest prescription drug death rates in the nation, steals oxycodone from a neighbor’s medicine cabinet and dies. A fireman dealing with pain from injuries sustained while on the job misuses pain medicines and antidepressants, and loses his life.
 
Our goal with Pharmacy Times is to educate pharmacists on the many aspects of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. This includes their side effects and safety, but also the risks of drug diversion and abuse, as well as how to counsel patients. The pharmacist is on the front line of public safety and, in fact, is the expert on medication safety and best practices. It is up to the public to make use of these valuable health care professionals to ask questions when there is any confusion, to seek counsel when there seems to be a problem, and to follow up for situations that require intervention by physicians. It’s important that individuals take responsibility for their actions, and when they need the help, to seek it out.
 
As the statistics and headlines send out the alarm, such as the recent one in People magazine, people are taking action. A pioneer example comes from Washington state, where a new law limits the availability of opioids, and advocacy groups have stepped up to face this public health crisis. But there is more work to be done.
 
“Death by Pills” is not a headline that the industry and health care profession would like to see. Medications are meant for positive effect, not accidental death or misuse. How can it stop? Look in your own backyard, and see if you can aid law enforcement, join a new community group, or counsel the individual patients who come to your pharmacy. By getting involved in your own neighborhood, and recognizing the great harm the misuse of prescription drugs can bring, you can make a difference.
 
Mike Hennessy
Chairman/Chief Executive Officer
Blog Info
Mike Hennessy, President, Chairman, CEO
Blog Description
Mike Hennessy shares his views and perspectives on issues that affect pharmacists.
Author Bio
ABOUT MIKE HENNESSY, President, Chairman, CEO

Mike Hennessy is President, Chairman, and CEO of MJH & Associates and Intellisphere, LLC, publisher of influential journals in health care, finance, and politics, including Pharmacy Times. Pharmacy Times is a clinically based, monthly journal providing practical information pharmacists can use in their everyday practice. Each issue contains articles and features covering medication errors, drug interactions, patient education, pharmacy technology, disease state management watches, patient counseling, product news, pharmacy law, and specialty pharmacy. Pharmacy Times is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) as a provider of free continuing pharmacy education.

As a businessman, entrepreneur, and publisher of magazines, iPad editions, projects, and Web sites that focus on the needs of health care professionals, Hennessy is intimately familiar with the challenges these professionals face every day in today's competitive practice environment. News & Views: Hennessy's Highlights dissects health care policy issues, the impact of pharmacy on national health care, and the critical issues that concern pharmacists as the new health care reform legislation is debated.

As publisher of Pharmacy Times, Mr. Hennessy launched the Next-Generation Pharmacist Awards in partnership with Parata Systems, to recognize the achievements of pharmacists in health care. "As the leader in pharmacy publishing, Pharmacy Times is shining a light on the critical role of the pharmacist in today's health care world and providing invaluable insight into the profession," Mike Hennessy, chairman, chief executive officer, and president said. "We are proud to recognize individual pharmacists in this 2nd annual awards program."

Pharmacy Times is published by Intellisphere, LLC, a leading provider of health care publishing, research, information, and education. Operating within both traditional and digital media channels, Intellisphere serves the needs of health care professionals through an extensive suite of magazines, journals, e-mail databases, Web sites, events and personal meetings. Intellisphere reaches more than half a million health care professionals through Pharmacy Times, Specialty Pharmacy Times, The American Journal of Managed Care, The American Journal of Pharmacy Benefits, MDNG, HCPlive.com, Oncology & Biotech News, Oncology Net Guide, Contemporary Oncology, and Oncology Net Guide: Nurses' Edition.
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