Drug Diversion and Abuse: President Bush Speaks Out on Drug Diversion

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

The country's pharmaceutical diversion problems have captured the attention of the president, which hopefully will lead to more national measures to curb the problem.

John Burke, commander ofthe Warren County, Ohio,drug task force and retiredcommander of the CincinnatiPolice PharmaceuticalDiversion Squad, is a 40-yearveteran of law enforcement.Cmdr Burke also is the currentpresident of theNational Association of Drug DiversionInvestigators. For information, he can bereached by e-mail at linkEmail('burke','choice.net');, viathe Web site www.rxdiversion.com, or byphone at 513-336-0070.

In early March 2008, PresidentGeorge Bush gave a brief accountof our country's pharmaceuticaldiversion problems, during his weeklyradio address to the nation. This is thefirst time in my recollection that a sittingUS president, or any president,directly addressed this issue in thisdepth.

His message first dealt with thegrowing problem of teen prescriptiondrug abuse. He said that 2 million ofour youth currently abuse pharmaceuticalsand that approximately 2500 ofthem have their first illegal use of thedrugs every day. He went on to statethat prescription drugs are the top substanceof abuse listed by 12- and 13-year-olds in this country.

These staggering numbers of youthprescription drug abuse have beenborne out in other studies recently,causing the drug prevention groupDrug Abuse Resistance Education tolaunch an entire segment of its educationon pharmaceutical diversion byteenagers. Other prevention groups,such as the Coalition for a Drug-FreeAmerica, also have shifted some oftheir emphasis to educating Americanson the potential problems with pharmaceuticals,especially painkillers.

President Bush went on to talk to theparents and others who have outdatedand/or unused prescription drugs intheir home medicine cabinet about theneed to properly destroy them to alleviatethe temptation of youths whomay use them recreationally. He urgedparents to talk to their kids about prescriptiondrug abuse, because a misconceptionexists that these drugs arenot as dangerous as other street drugswhen abused.

President Bush also zeroed in on illegalInternet pharmacies and quotedanother statistic that may give somecredence to those of us who have saidfor some time that these illegal sourcesare huge suppliers of illegal prescriptionsubstances. In 2006, just 34 knownor suspected rogue Internet pharmaciesdistributed >98 million dosageunits of hydrocodone. The diversion of98 million dosage units of the mosthighly abused pharmaceutical drugshould be a telltale sign of where majorlaw enforcement resources should becentered. Bush went on to say that thisquantity of hydrocodone would supplyan average of 410,000 patients for amonth, and it would take the entireannual sales of 1118 pharmacies toequal the dosage units of hydrocodonethat are being sold by these 34 illegalInternet pharmacies!

These kinds of figures prompted thepresident to urge the swift passage oflegislation (the Ryan Haight OnlinePharmacy Consumer Protection Act)that is currently in the Senate thatwould address these illegal Internetpharmacy operations. It would make itnecessary for a patient to be under alegitimate physician's care beforereceiving these kinds of prescriptions.What a novel idea! The hard part will beto see whether this kind of legislationwill actually curb this multi-billion-dollarillegal industry.

As I have said in several othercolumns, taking action against thisproblem requires wide cooperationamong local, state, and federal lawenforcement, as well as the applicationof diplomatic pressure on key countriesin the world to assist us in severelyreducing this illegal business. I hopethat this new legislation at least assistsin getting the job done.

I applaud President Bush for addressingthe ongoing serious problemof prescription drug abuse. This is justone more step in educating the publicon the problem, which is one morestep hopefully to reducing the devastationof addiction to pharmaceuticals.