Tuesday, 06 18, 2013
Allison Gardner Martin
National retailer Urban Outfitters is halting sales of a line of products that mimic prescription pill bottles and prescription pads following a plea from Attorney General Jack Conway and 23 of his colleagues. In a recent statement to the media, Urban Outfitters announced it would discontinue its "Prescription Line" of products due to its "misinterpretation."
Attorney General Conway and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine led efforts to contact Urban Outfitters to urge the retailer, popular with teens, to stop selling products, including pint glasses, shot glasses and flasks, made to look like prescription pill bottles.
"Urban Outfitters is doing the right thing by removing these tasteless products that make light of an epidemic that kills thousands of people each month in the United States," said General Conway, who co-chairs the Substance Abuse Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). "I hope Urban Outfitters will continue to support our efforts to educate the public, and teens in particular, about the deadly consequences of prescription drug abuse."
In a letter dated May 22, 2013, the Attorneys General outlined their concerns and urged Urban Outfitters to cease sales of its "Prescription Line" of products. Link to letter: http://goo.gl/XT03e .
The request was echoed by a growing number of public officials, concerned citizens and organizations on the frontline in the battle against prescription drug abuse, including the Office of National Drug Control Policy and The Partnership at Drugfree.org.
Prescription drugs are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. A new national survey by The Partnership at Drugfree.org finds one in four teens reports having misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime. Of those kids who admitted to the abuse, one in five, or 20 percent, did so before age 14.
Additionally, the survey finds more than a quarter of teens mistakenly believe that prescription drug abuse is safer than using street drugs.
FDA Reviewing Request from Attorneys General for Black Box Warning on Opioid Analgesics
In May, General Conway was among 43 Attorneys General to urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to place a black box warning on opioid analgesics to indicate the risk of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). In response, the FDA confirmed in a June 7 letter that it will consider labeling modifications in light of this "important public health issue."
NAS is caused when infants who have been exposed to opioids through their mother's pre-natal use suddenly lose their opioid drug supply at birth. In Kentucky alone, instances of NAS have risen 2500 percent over the past decade.
"Babies who are born dependent on powerful painkillers can face a lifetime of challenges, both physically and mentally," General Conway said. "We must do everything in our power to educate patients and practitioners about NAS so that we can stop this alarming trend."
Combating Prescription Drug Abuse
In addition to his work on NAAG's Substance Abuse Committee, General Conway launched Kentucky's first and only statewide Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force in August of 2009. The task force has been involved in more than 430 prescription drug diversion investigations, including Operation Flamingo Road, the state's largest prescription drug bust that resulted in the arrest of more than 500 people.
In 2010, General Conway launched the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe initiative with the Kentucky Justice Cabinet and its Office of Drug Control Policy, Kentucky Pharmacists Association, National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), Operation UNITE and concerned parents. Since its launch, Attorney General Conway and his partners have alerted more than 20,000 students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
General Conway also worked closely with Governor Beshear, House Speaker Stumbo, Senate President Stivers and other lawmakers to win passage of landmark legislation in 2012 to prevent the abuse and diversion of prescription pills in the Commonwealth. Since its passage, prescriptions for hydrocodone are down almost 20 percent and prescriptions for Opana have been almost cut in half.
Attorney General Conway's Office has also filed suit against Purdue Pharma, the manufacturers of OxyContin for misrepresenting the addictive nature of the drug. A recent federal appeals court ruling has cleared the way for the case to be heard in Pike Circuit Court.
General Conway's efforts are making a difference. The latest report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows a decline in the non-medical use of prescription pain relievers among all age groups in Kentucky. The state is also below the national average for prescription drug abuse, for the first time.
In addition to the work being done here in the Commonwealth, Attorney General Conway reached across party lines to work with Attorney General Pam Bondi in Florida to ensure that her state implemented an electronic prescription drug monitoring system similar to Kentucky's KASPER system. Together they have worked to shut down the pill pipeline between Florida and Kentucky and to see that all 50 states have prescription drug monitoring programs are in place and that all of the programs can share data across state lines.