Program to track prescription drug abuse faces funding challenge

A state program launched earlier this year to address what federal health officials are calling an “epidemic” of prescription drug abuse is off to a promising start, pharmacists and others say.

But that may not be enough to protect it from potential budget shortfalls that could threaten its survival.

Nearly 4,000 doctors and other providers and about 1,000 dispensers, mostly pharmacists, have signed up to participate in the program, known as Kansas Tracking and Reporting of Controlled Substances, or K-TRACS.

From July through September, providers logged into the system more than 35,000 times to get information about the prescription drug histories of their patients. Pharmacists made about 13,000 queries.

The program doesn’t track how many times doctors and pharmacists refuse prescriptions for people they suspect of shopping for powerful painkillers and other restricted medications. But Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, a pharmacist, witnessed a couple of instances last week when she worked a fill-in shift at an area pharmacy.

“I can tell you because of the PMP (prescription monitoring program) two prescriptions weren’t filled that day at the pharmacy I was working at,” Schmidt said. “I believe the program is incredibly beneficial.”

Growing problem

Overdoses involving prescription painkillers like hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin) kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When other prescription narcotics are included, drug overdose deaths now outnumber traffic facilities in the United States, killing 37,485 people in 2009.

In Kansas, deaths from prescription drug overdoses increased from 22 in 1999 to 124 in 2009, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that one in every 20 people in the United States age 12 and older — a total of 12 million people — reported using prescription painkillers for non-medical purposes. The illicit use has helped spur a 300 percent increase in the sales of painkilling drugs to pharmacies and health care providers since 1999, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“Prescription drug abuse is a silent epidemic that is stealing thousands of lives and tearing apart communities and families across America," Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy, said in a recent CDC report on the problem.

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Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago



I am not going to edit this at all, just post it. May as well, because so much of what happened was so intense that my memories of it are a mess anyway.

Boy, do I ever have a story to tell about that! I had a roommate some years ago that had a serious problem with taking prescription drugs. And, he was an alcoholic too. (Bad combo!) I did not realize how bad the problem was until Halloween was approaching one night.

We watched 'The Necronomicon' on Sunday night. It's a Halloween movie about death, if you want to know more go look it up on google. The movie ended about midnight. He seemed fine to me when he said goodnight and headed off to his bedroom for the night. He had just gotten a dog that was still a rather young puppy, so he took his new dog with him to his bedroom, like he always did.

I went to sleep in the basement, where I was living at in the time. Because of the construction of the house, I could tell when he was walking across the living room to his car to go to work, if I was awake. I didn't really notice anything the next morning, he could get up and go to work, or not get up and not go to work, I didn't really care. But, since it was going to be Monday morning, I fully expected him to not go to work, because on Mondays he always called in sick.

I once asked him why he did that and how he got away with it, considering that he had a very responsible position and was very highly paid with a fixed salary, not by the hour. The answer was, "I do it because I can get away with it. If I couldn't get away with it, I wouldn't do it."

He didn't get up that Monday morning, and that was certainly no surprise to me.

Later, I got up and went online, which I do a lot of, anyone that reads the LJWorld or is Facebook friends with me will testify to that. Plus, I seem to always know a lot about current events, I wonder why.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

2) About ten o'clock Monday morning, all hell broke loose. My roommate's dog was making such a huge racket that she'd be waking the dead, you would think. And, I could her scratching at the door and doing serious damage while howling her head off.

There was nothing to do but let the do go outside to do her thing, and since my roommate was not doing it, I had to.

The very second I opened the door I knew something was terribly wrong. My roommate was stretched out on his bed in the most unnatural position I have ever seen anyone in. So, in a huge rush, I ran out with the dog, chained her up, and ran back in.

My roommate was lying on his bed with nothing on, and not breathing. When I put my hand on him, his body was stiff and cold. And, his lips were a bluish shade that I had never seen before.

My mind went blank, I went on autopilot, and my memories of what happened after that are somewhat disjointed.

I shoved him to the middle of the bed and started acting out what I had seen done on television a few times. I did not know that what I was doing is referred to as "chest pounds", I was simply acting out a real live TV show.

After some chest pounds, he gasped one breath.

Then I grabbed the phone and dialed 911.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

3) I held the phone to my ear with my shoulder while I kept on doing chest pounds, because he would only take a breath when I did that. The emergency operator told me he needed to be on a firm surface. So I said, "OK", then pulled his body off the edge of the bed, thump thump, and started doing it again to keep him breathing.

The dispatcher asked me what the address was, I knew that, so I told her. But then, she asked me what the telephone number was, and I didn't know! So I yelled, "Can't you tell?"

Well, I kept on doing chest pounds whenever he quit breathing, which he did after taking two or three breaths, every time. I thought the emergency people would never get there! It seemed like forever.

I asked the operator if I should open the door for them, she said "No, they'll come right in."

I never heard a siren, because they didn't use it! But I could hear the fire truck, they are rather loud, and this was all happening on a dead end street that had no traffic that passed by at all.

I ran to the door, and very excitedly hurried them back to where my roommate was, still lying on the floor of course, and breathing intermittently.

The fireman said something into a microphone, I don't remember what, then the medic put an oxygen thing on him, then they came in with a gurney, put him on it, and I was like, in a daze. This was all very, very weird! Right out of a TV show!

Somewhere about then, one of the medics asked me which hospital to take him to. I had no clue! So, he said they were going to take him to whatever, and I said, "Sure."

As the last medic was leaving, I noticed a stethoscope hanging on the wall. I thought someone must have forgotten it or something, and in a daze, I handed it to one of the medics, saying "You forgot this."

He looked at me kind of funny, and said, "I think I can get it to them," took the stethoscope, and walked out to the ambulance.

I stood there in a daze. Suddenly, it dawned on me that he would need his glasses, there they were, lying on the dresser. So, I walked out to the ambulance that was sitting in the driveway, and tried to hand them to the last medic that I could see.

He looked at me funny, and said, "Maybe you better take them to the hospital."

Then, he got in the back of the ambulance, and the door closed behind him.

So, there I was, sitting on the lawn holding my roommate's glasses, the fire truck had left, and there was a very, very silent ambulance sitting in the driveway.


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

4) Finally, someone came out of the back of the ambulance, maybe that's when I tried to give him my roommate's glasses, I am totally confused on that point, to tell the truth. Anyway, his glasses were my problem.

Then, the ambulance drove away, with no lights or siren! I followed it with my car, and then I was in the emergency room with him and a nurse in attendance for hours while he was all passed out with all sorts of stuff attached, and I have no clue what it all was. Hours! And he never woke up at all that whole time.

Then, he went into the regular hospital room, some sort of special room, I don't know what it was called, but it was a special room in a huge hospital that had maybe 12 patients in it for a couple days.

A couple days later, a very intelligent doctor asked me all sorts of questions about what all had happened the night before all this happened. I answered to the best of my ability. But, I did not know the extent of my roommate's problem.

He was considered to have an unknown terrible disease, and was in an isolation ward until they could figure out what was wrong with him.

I learned that you need to be a relative to get in to see someone at the hospital, but he had NO relatives anywhere near and I couldn't get special permission to get it because my roommate was all passed out for a couple days. But, there's a trick, I'm letting out. You don't need to be a relative! You just have to know the patient's name, and tell them you are! Because they don't ask relatives for identification, they just let you in if you say you are one. That really was the easiest way.

Well, finally he woke up, and with all the machines attached to his face he couldn't talk, but he could hear me, finally. So I asked him if I should call his father and tell him about the situation. He nodded emphatically, so I did, and he arrived a couple days later.

A diagnosis of what had happened to him was never made at the hospital, but he recovered enough to go home after maybe three days, but he was pretty weak for a while.

And then, after he had been home a couple days, he said this to me:

"I can't believe you gave them my stethoscope. It cost forty two dollars."

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

PS: I was informed later that if he had been in any emergency room in the world only five minutes after I found him, he would have had zero chance of survival.

There was some weird number his blood pH was at, and when it's at whatever number it was at, you're practically dead.

He had totally quit breathing, but his heart was still beating, barely, when I found him.

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