Prescription Drugs

Essential Pittsburgh
3:51 pm
Wed January 28, 2015

Heroin Addiction: The Complex Epidemic Touches All Communities

The opiate overdose reversal drug Naloxone, also known as Narcan has saved many lives since it became more readily available for emergency use.
Credit Punchy Judy / Flickr

In 2014, heroin addiction and overdose deaths became an epidemic across the country, across the state of Pennsylvania and especially in Allegheny County.

Dr. Neil Capretto, Medical Director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center says the high rate of overdoses in southwest PA can be tied to use of prescription medicines, along with a blue collar and aging demographic.

"There was a need for pain medicines and doctor's started prescribing it and pharmaceutical companies started marketing to doctors heavily. And they were giving the message, 'This is safe, not addicting. Less than one percent of people who ever use Oxicodon ever have a problem.' That was the message from the companies. So there was a lot of prescription medicines, very heavy in our community. Then thousands of people in every town from Kittanning, to Downtown Pittsburgh, to Clarion, to Washington PA got hooked onto prescription medicines, and that led to the heroine problem."

Capretto explains that as an addiction to legal prescription opiates develops, heroin emerges as a cheaper alternative, once refills run out. But addiction is not simply about the relief of physical pain.

Capretto says he considers addiction to be a biological, psychological, social, and even spiritual disease. 

"Opioids are very good at stopping and blocking pain; physical pain, emotional pain, psychic pain... I've talked with thousands of people with addiction over the years and I never met one who started using any drug because they wanted to intentionally add more problems to their life on purpose. They're trying to solve some problem, block some pain." 

A Coordinated Effort to Cover the Complexities of Heroin Addiction

As news of the increasing number of heroin overdoses has made headlines throughout Pennsylvania, newsrooms are making a coordinated effort to cover the most important angles of this public health crisis.

Sharon Walsh, editor of the investigative journalism organization PublicSource, has been compiling the work of PA media outlets that have been reporting on the heroin problem.

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Government & Politics
12:04 pm
Thu January 1, 2015

Local Pharmacies Prep for Prescription Drug Database

In an effort to cut down on prescription drug abuse, the state is working to put together the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions Program (ABC-MAP) oversight board by Jan. 25. Part of the law that created the board will also create a prescription drug database.

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Government & Politics
10:15 am
Wed October 15, 2014

Drug Database Expansion One Step Away From The Governor

A long-sought expansion of the state system for tracking prescription drugs is expected to hit the governor’s desk this week.

The broadened database would monitor opioids, the powerful painkillers whose abuse has been linked to a spike in fatal heroin overdoses.

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7:55 am
Fri September 5, 2014

Doctors Eye Prescription Tracking Bills

For about a year, state lawmakers have considered how to make it easier to track prescription drug abuse in Pennsylvania. Supporters say a plan to expand a patient database may be close to final passage.

The commonwealth already has a database to track the drugs most prone to abuse. Pending legislation would expand the tool to include prescriptions that treat migraines, seizures, and anxiety, as well as some cough medicines. Once in the database, those prescriptions would be subject to a dragnet by doctors, pharmacists, and (to an as yet unknown degree) law enforcement.

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3:30 am
Mon June 2, 2014

Pennsylvania Ranks High In Painkiller Prescriptions

Injured workers in Pennsylvania receive stronger painkillers per claim than the average state. That's according to a report released this month by the Workers Compensation Research Institute.

According to the study, the average injured Pennsylvania worker gets about 2,745 milligrams of a morphine equivalent narcotic per claim. That’s 32 to 48 percent more than workers in the average state.

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Public Safety
5:04 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Corbett Administration Launches Prescription Drug Take-Back Program

The Corbett administration has announced a medication drug take-back program, calling on Pennsylvanians to dump their old prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs in one of the scores of receptacles at police stations across the commonwealth.

Law enforcement and medical professionals say the abuse of prescriptions has led to a surge in the use of drugs like heroin.

Gov. Tom Corbett says getting rid of drugs that sit in medicine cabinets for years brings down the chances that they’ll end up in the hands of people who may misuse them.

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3:30 am
Tue November 19, 2013

High-Cost 'Specialty Tier' Prescription Drugs Under Scrutiny in PA

Tough to swallow: Pennsylvania lawmakers are studying the possibility of capping the price of so-called “specialty tier” prescription drugs for policy holders in the state.
Credit Flickr user Grumpy-Puddin

If you have hemophilia, multiple sclerosis or any number of other hard-to-treat diseases, the cost of your medications alone could reach into six figures, depending on your insurance coverage.

“It’s roughly $15,000 a month, and from that I’m lucky to have good insurance so we have good co-pay structure, co-insurance," said Nick Vizzoca, whose 13-year-old son has hemophilia.

The Pittsburgh resident said he is worried his son’s medication could be placed into a specialty tier and the co-pay could sky rocket.

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1:58 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

2.8 million pounds of materials have been collected at the past six Take Back Days
Credit Flickr

Be it antibiotics or pain medication, in the past, most people have disposed of their leftover pills in toilet, which can cause drinking water contamination and other environmental concerns.

Run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, National Prescription Take Back Day provides people with a safe, responsible and convenient way to turn in their drugs.

According to Michael Stepaniak, an environmental program coordinator for the PA Resources Council, they accept everything from prescription drugs to controlled substances. It is completely anonymous and no questions are asked.

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4:49 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

Pennsylvania Has 14th Highest Rate of Drug Overdose Deaths, Study Shows

A new study released Monday shows Pennsylvania has the 14th highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation.

Albert Lang, communications manager at the Trust for America’s Health, said this is the first time the organization has aggregated such data.

They were motivated to do so after compiling related data on accident and injury deaths, which includes drug overdoses.

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Drug Abuse
4:32 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

Mt. Lebanon Announces Program to Fight Prescription Drug Abuse

Josephine Posti, Mt. Lebanon School Director and spokesperson for Pennsylvania American Water, drops prescription drugs in the new drop box at the Mt. Lebanon Public Safety Center
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

The municipality of Mt. Lebanon announced a new initiative to fight prescription drug abuse on Wednesday.

The program is called Stop Addiction for Everyone, or SAFE, and includes a poster campaign, a PSA, and the installation of a new prescription drug drop box at the Public Safety Center on Washington Road.

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Government & Politics
10:15 am
Fri September 20, 2013

State Lawmaker Calls for Investigation into Prescription Drug Abuse in PA

One state lawmaker’s call to investigate the proliferation of prescription drug abuse in the commonwealth could be the opening salvo in a war on drug companies, or a blip on the radar in the Legislature.

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) says he’s had it.

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