| WASHINGTON, March 3
WASHINGTON, March 3 Most Americans who abuse
prescription pain killers get them free from friends or family,
but a new study released on Monday shows that addicts who use
these opiates most frequently gravitate toward doctors or
dealers to get their fixes.
U.S. government researchers found that nearly one in three
"high use" abusers - people who take opioids between 200 and 365
days a year - obtained a doctor's prescription for the drugs,
compared with about one in five of those who used the drugs less
than 30 days over the course of a year.
High users were also more than three times more likely to
buy these drugs from dealers, researchers wrote in the Journal
of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.
Less frequent users were more likely to obtain the narcotics
at no charge from people they knew, compared with high use
abusers, 62 percent versus 26 percent, according to the review.
Researchers said their analysis shows the need to shift the
focus of prevention to targeting the abuse of prescription
narcotics such as morphine, codeine, oxycodone and hydrocodone.
Prevention programs should concentrate much more on ensuring
that doctors prescribe pain killers judiciously, screen patients
carefully and conduct follow-up monitoring of frequent users.
"This is the group where we really need to be targeting our
efforts because they're most at risk for overdose or
dependence," lead author Christopher Jones, former head of the
CDC's prescription drug overdose team, told Reuters.
Jones, now at the Food and Drug Administration's policy
office, added that the results also show the, "need to think
about what role do physicians play. How can they be better
equipped to identify patients who are non-medically using and
help assist them?"
The findings come as Zohydro, a high-potency prescription
opioid from Zogenix Inc, is set to hit the U.S. market
this month, despite objections from law enforcement officials,
addiction experts, drug treatment providers and physicians.
Jones and his colleagues reviewed data from a government
survey on drug use from 2008 to 2011 and found that, on average,
more than 12 million people age 12 and older were estimated to
have used prescription opioids at least once a year to get high.
They found several ways people obtain such drugs for
non-medical use: free from friends or family, purchased from
someone they know, purchased from a drug dealer, stolen from a
known person, or obtained through a doctor.
Attention has focused in recent years on the control of
prescription pain killers to help stem abuse, in particular
oxycodone, sold by Purdue Pharma under the Oxycontin brand.
The FDA, which approves medicine for sale in the United
States, has taken measures to curb abuse, such as requiring drug
makers to have risk management plans and to educate doctors.
Zogenix Executive Vice President Bradley Galer said on
Monday the company's risk management program for Zohydro, which
includes more safety information, "will help prescribers
understand better what small subset of patients" are suited for
the drug. These are people who need daily, around-the-clock pain
treatment, but have found no relief with other opioids.
The FDA has recommended tighter restrictions on hydrocodone
products. Last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration said
drugs containing the ingredient should be more tightly
restricted along the lines of morphine and oxycodone. That would
make them harder to obtain, requiring, for example, that doctors
write a prescription, not call one into a pharmacy.