Experts call for reforms in how powerful painkillers are prescribed

Public health experts are pushing for major reforms in how powerful painkillers are prescribed and addicts are treated.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health released a report Monday that calls for changes to the way medical students and physicians are trained and stricter oversight of clinical prescribing.  

“The Prescription Opioid Epidemic: An Evidence-Based Approach,” recommends Congress repeal existing permissive and lax prescription laws, mandate all prescribers use Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, state databases that include controlled substance prescriptions from in-state pharmacies, and make them more accessible to law enforcement when warranted.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16,000 people died in the U.S. from overdoses related to opioid pain relievers in 2013, four times the number who died in 1999, and prescription opioid sales have increased 300 percent since 1999.

In 2013, the agency estimated that two million Americans were dependent on opioid medications.

“This is a complex epidemic with no simple solutions,” Dr. G. Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness at the Bloomberg School, said in a news release. “We tried to identify as many windows as possible, and to tie together as much research as available, to inform these recommendations which together we believe provide the best chance of turning this steamship around.”