DEA, FDA cite progress in fight against prescription drug abuse

May 1, 2012

The Drug Enforcement Administration, FDA, and other government agencies have made considerable progress on fighting prescription drug abuse in the past year, but much more remains to be done, according to officials.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), FDA, and other government agencies have made considerable progress on fighting prescription drug abuse in the past year, but much more remains to be done, according to officials.

The directors of the DEA, FDA, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated the public on the issue at a media briefing held last week in Washington, D.C. The agencies have been working together to help curb prescription drug abuse since the Obama administration released a national plan on the issue a year ago.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, said the agency recognizes that prescription opioids must have continued availability, but the medications need to be used safely. To that end, FDA convened a panel of outside experts to create a model Patient-Provider Agreement.

“That agreement will be another resource that can be used by health professionals with patients who will use opioids on an ongoing basis, and sets us some guidelines for how to use these medicines, while reducing the development of addiction and misuse,” Hamburg said.

FDA and the National Institutes of Health will also hold a 2-day meeting “in the coming months” to review the scientific data on the use of opioid drugs for the treatment of chronic pain, Hamburg said.

“This meeting will pull together experts with a broad range of experience in the use of opioids, to discuss what data currently exists – and more importantly, what data and studies we need – to better understand when opioids should be used for chronic pain,” she added.

FDA will be issuing guidance to the pharmaceutical industry on the development of new formulations of opioids that are more difficult to abuse and misuse, according to Hamburg.

Other agencies are also making headway in combating the prescription drug abuse problem. The DEA has obtained nearly 1 million pounds of pills as part of its National Take-Back Day program and has arrested more than 100 physicians and others involved in illegal pain-pill schemes.

In addition, 48 states either have online prescription drug databases, or they will be online soon, according to Gil Kerlikowske, director of the ONDCP.