Monday, July 28, 2008

Prescription Pain Relievers - Deaths from Misuse Dramatically

Source: CNN 2008

Home deaths from drug errors soar
Deaths from medication errors at home are up dramatically in last 20 years

Increase steepest in death rates from mixing meds, alcohol, street drugs at home

Researchers cite dramatic rise in home use of prescription painkillers

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Deaths from medication mistakes at home, such as actor Heath Ledger's accidental overdose, rose dramatically during the past two decades, an analysis of U.S. death certificates finds.

Prescription drug abuse plays a role in the rise in fatalities, but it's unclear how much, researchers said.

The authors blame soaring home use of prescription painkillers and other potent drugs, which 25 years ago were given mainly inside hospitals.

"The amount of medical supervision is going down and the amount of responsibility put on the patient's shoulders is going up," said lead author David P. Phillips of the University of California, San Diego.

The findings, based on nearly 50 million U.S. death certificates, are published in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine. Of those, more than 224,000 involved fatal medication errors, including overdoses and mixing prescription drugs with alcohol or street drugs.

Deaths from medication mistakes at home increased from 1,132 deaths in 1983 to 12,426in 2004. Adjusted for population growth, that amounts to an increase of more than 700percent during that time.

In contrast, there was only a 5 percent increase in fatal medication errors away from home, including hospitals, and not involving alcohol or street drugs.

Abuse of prescription drugs plays a role, but it's unclear how much. Valid prescriptions taken in error, especially narcotics such as methadone and oxycodone, account for a growing number of deaths, said experts who reviewed the study.

The increases coincided with changing attitudes about painkillers among doctors who now regard pain management as a key to healing. Multiple prescription drugs taken at once -- like the sleeping pills, painkillers and anxiety drugs that killed "Dark Knight" star Ledger -- also play a part, experts said.

"When we see overdoses, we're seeing many more mixed drug overdoses," said Dr. Jeffrey Jentzen, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners and director of autopsies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Jentzen said autopsies are much more likely to include toxicology tests today than 25 years ago, which would contribute to finding more fatal medication errors as cause of death.

But Phillips said there were no significant increases in other poisonings, such as suicidal overdoses or homicides, so more testing doesn't explain the huge increase. The analysis excluded suicides, homicides and deaths related to side effects.

The increase was steepest in death rates from mixing medicine with alcohol or street drugs at home; that death rate climbed from 0.04 per 100,000 people in 1983 to 1.29 per 100,000 people in 2004.

Many patients ignore the risk of mixing alcohol with prescriptions, said Cynthia Kuhn of Duke University Medical Center, who was not involved in the study.

"They think, 'Oh, one drink won't hurt.' Then they have three or four," Kuhn said.

The increase in deaths was highest among baby boomers, people in their 40s and 50s.

"We're sort of drug happy," said boomer Dr. J. Lyle Bootman, the University of Arizona's pharmacy dean, who was not involved in the research. "We have this general attitude that drugs can fix everything."

People share prescriptions at an alarming rate, Bootman said. One recent study found 23 percent of people say they have loaned their prescription medicine to someone else and 27 percent say they have borrowed someone else's prescription drugs.

Kenneth Kolosh, a statistics expert at the National Safety Council, praised the study but said improved attention to coding location on death certificates may account, in part, for the huge increases the researchers found.

Phillips countered that home deaths from any cause increased relatively little during the time period, so better coding doesn't explain the change.

Michael R. Cohen, president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, said more states should require pharmacists to teach patients about dangerous drugs and insurers should pay pharmacists to do so.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Unions Oppose Drug Testing & Safety .. Again

Some Unions just don't get it, preferring to spread misinformation and rely upon scare tactics vs. acting responsibly and in the best interests of safety.

1. Random drug testing is NOT unconstitutional, nor illegal in the United States

2. Teachers should be subject to random drug testing, just as should firefighters, police, and other individuals in occupations where drug abuse would create serious safety issues.

3. Random drug testing via observed speciment collection, has proven to be effective at both detection and deterrence.

(Source: ABC News,

Random Drug Test For Teachers Meets Opposition

Teachers Union Says Drug Test Unconstitutional

HONOLULU -- There are more problems with a plan to randomly drug test school teachers. The union that represents public school teachers now said it can't knowingly agree to a plan it believes is unconstitutional.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association sent a letter to the school board that revealed where the two sides were far apart. The two sides had agreed to have a drug testing plan in place at the end of June, but missed the deadline.

Those eager to begin the new school year said the start is being clouded by drug testing controversy."I hope there is some reasonable resolution to this. It just going to take away from education and that's a shame," principal Mike Haramo said.

"We are starting the school year and they are still talking about it. You just wonder how long it's going to go on for," parent Rikki Wells said.

Wells said he worries it's all about red tape and politics and not enough focus on the children.Dragging it on, going into the courts, the political fees, the arguing back and forth and the truth," Wells said.

The first day of class for most public schools is the end of July, and at some campuses, teachers are to report to work next week.

Others who get random drug tests frequently said the same should apply to teachers.

"I think everyone in the HSTA should be drug tested just for the safety of the children," a construction worker said. Gloria Chi thinks random testing a good idea, but she thinks taking classroom money to pay for it is bad. "BOE should be doing something for the kids for education but the government should really pay for it," Chi said.

And when pressed about what appears to be an about face for the teachers union...

"Random is what teachers agreed to. We agreed to random and reasonable suspicion, but when we got into procedures we found complications of constitutional issues," HSTA Executive Director Mike McCartney said.

McCartney said the latest proposal is unworkable. Both sides have appealed to the labor board to help resolve the conflict.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Drugged Driving - July 2008 - New Laws

Police expect challenges to roadside drug test law
The Cape Breton Post

SYDNEY — Drivers who operate a motor vehicle while high will no longer be able to refuse road side drug tests under new laws which came into affect last week.

Police can now require drivers to submit to roadside tests and also have the power to take suspected drug-impaired drivers to a police station or hospital to get a blood, urine or saliva sample.

Under the old law, police were obliged to tell drivers suspected of being high that roadside tests weren’t mandatory.
While the new law is being heralded by law enforcement officials, they also realize there will be challenges involved with enforcement.
“To us, this is a great thing, it’s another tool in our toolbox in terms of our officers out on the streets dealing with people they believe are drug induced and driving and now we actually have the law in place which gives us the authority to deal with these issues,” said deputy chief Myles Burke, of the Cape Breton Regional Police. “I think this is a great thing for law enforcement and a great thing for the community – it’s a positive step. There will no doubt ... be challenges to the law, challenges to the constitutionality of the demand and even the expertise of the experts themselves …
“This stuff can be challenged, but that’s fine. That comes with every law we’re dealing with, but at the end of the day we will have people here who are certified experts, who will be doing the field testing that is required and will be going to court in cases where they feel someone is driving under the influence of narcotics.”
Burke said training of officers within the traffic safety unit will be the key to successful enforcement of the law and he would like to see experts on call 24/7 to help deal with situations when they arise.
“The training is very specialized and although there are funds available to train officers, it does require a significant commitment and officers have to leave the local area (for training),” said Burke. “One component of the course, the officers are actually trained at a U.S. prison doing testing of people going in and out of the prison. Their field subject testing is actually live at a prison.
“We have requested for the next training course available to have a couple of seats made available. We are very interested in having a couple of our officers trained as experts.”