Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Western Pennsylvania overdose deaths soar

Pharmacists in Pennsylvania are seeing prescriptions for narcotic painkillers written in other states that have clamped down on addicts skirting the system to get drugs under the radar of authorities, reported the Observer-Reporter.

State Rep. Brandon Neuman is coauthoring an amendment to state law to help prevent addicts from easily using cash to pay for prescription narcotics they get filled by traveling to many different physicians and pharmacies without detection in Pennsylvania.

Ohio runs every prescription through a computerized central monitoring program to identify physicians and customers who abuse the system. He said he supports a similar program lawmakers in Harrisburg are considering to address an alarming rate of prescription drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania.

House Bill 317 would establish the Pennsylvania Accountability Monitoring System, a narcotics database that raises a red flag for doctors and pharmacists when they are met with a patient or customer who has already received an adequate supply of Schedule II drugs containing opiates or synthetic opiates. The bill, introduced by state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bensalem, has moved out of committee and is ready for a vote on the House floor, where it appears to have broad support, reported the Observer-Reporter.

Washington County Coroner Tim Warco investigated 40 overdose deaths last year, with seven of them involving heroin alone or mixed with other drugs. Seventeen of the deaths involved the used of opiates, Warco’s 2012 annual report indicates.

There were 46 overdose deaths the previous year in Washington County, where just two people died in that fashion in 1992 and 28 in 2003.

Greene County Coroner Gregory Rohanna said he doesn’t keep cause-of-death records.

The Westmoreland County coroner’s office has released its own alarming statistics on drug overdose deaths, stating it had investigated 16 such cases in the first six weeks on this year, five of which were investigated within one week’s time. Coroner Ken Bacha stated he investigated a record-setting 71 drug overdose deaths in 2012, according to the Observer-Reporter.

The national average for overdose deaths a year is 10 per 100,000 people.

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