Prescription Drug Abuse

PhRMA Helps Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

PhRMA Helps Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse continues to be a significant national problem, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) remains deeply committed to fighting it. Through community education and collaboration with community leaders, PhRMA members are doing their part in helping to prevent and reduce drug abuse.

Prescription medications are generally safe, but only when they are taken as prescribed and for the intended purpose. When they are abused—taken in ways that are not prescribed—they can cause an array of adverse health effects, including overdose. The risk of injury or death is even greater when prescription medications are abused alongside other drugs or alcohol.

According to the most recent national data, prescription medicines are the most commonly abused substance after marijuana. In 2011, more than six million Americans over age 12 reported abusing prescription drugs during the previous month.

Subscribe buttonPrescription and OTC drugs may be abused in one or more of the following ways:

  • Taking a medication prescribed for somebody else.
  • Taking a drug in a higher quantity or in another manner than prescribed.
  • Taking a drug for another purpose than prescribed.

PhRMA Policy Positions For a Healthier America: Reducing Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse

While more than 90 percent of the prescription medicines most susceptible to abuse are generic, PhRMA and its members are committed to supporting the appropriate use of prescription medicines and working with others to address the diversion, misuse, and abuse of prescription medicines. As policies are considered to address this public health issue, a careful balance needs to be struck to ensure that efforts aimed at minimizing the potential for diversion, misuse, and abuse of prescription medicines do not restrict access for patients with legitimate medical needs. To meaningfully address this issue, we put forth the following policy recommendations intended to inform policy proposals at the state and federal levels.

  • Improving the Use and Effectiveness of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs):  Given the demonstrated effectiveness of these state‐run electronic databases in helping identify potential doctor shopping (the process by which individuals visit numerous doctors in an attempt to obtain multiple prescriptions for particular drugs) and inappropriate prescribing, we support efforts to improve the oversight and effectiveness of PDMPs, expanded interoperability, and increased standardization to facilitate the timeliness and reliability of data contained in PDMPs.
  • Expanding Efforts to Identify and Shut Down “Pill Mills”: Strengthening the regulation of the legitimate practice of pain clinics will help reduce the activities of “pill mills” (e.g., facilities thatinappropriately provide access to controlled substances) while protecting the activities of legitimate healthcare providers. Unlike the legitimate practice of pain management, “pill mills” are driven solely by financial interests with no regard for medical necessity.
  • Strengthening Efforts to Combat Prescription Drug Diversion, Abuse, and Fraud: Given that most pharmaceuticals abused in the United States are diverted by doctor shopping, forged prescriptions, theft and, increasingly, via the Internet, we support expanded efforts to address these sources.
  • Expanding and Improving Public and Professional Awareness, Education, and Training Related  to Prescription Drug Abuse: To reduce and guard against prescription drug abuse, a more comprehensive approach to public education and awareness and provider training is needed to increase awareness of the dangers of prescription drug abuse, ensure appropriate use of medicines, and promote appropriate prescribing practices, including training on use of PDMPs, and screening, brief intervention and referral for treatment of patients suspected of misusing and abusing prescription medicines.
  • Encouraging the Use and Development of Abuse Deterrent Formulations (ADF) to enhance patient safety: ADF medicines have characteristics that help prevent widespread abuse by impeding the delivery of their active ingredient. When an innovator has developed and FDA has approved such a formulation, in order to enhance patient safety, FDA should not approve a generic formulation of the medicine that does not incorporate comparable abuse deterrence. The science of abuse deterrence is challenging and both the formulation technologies and the analytical, clinical, and statistical methods for evaluating those technologies are rapidly evolving. Public policies should encourage the scientific and clinical research needed to advance the development and assessment of abuse‐deterrent technologies.

PhRMA Alliances with Organizations Working to Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse

PhRMA is engaged in a variety of programs working to prevent prescription drug abuse through patient and community education programs.

  • PhRMA is a key partner with The Partnership at (formerly known as the Partnership for a Drug-Free America), which helps parents prevent, intervene in, and find treatment for drug and alcohol use by their children. Collaborative efforts include developing appropriate educational materials and tracking attitudes toward prescription drug abuse among teens and other target groups.

The Partnership has also developed, in concert with our member companies, a program called Rx 360. With funding from the Department of Health and Human Services and Purdue Pharma, this program trains local prevention and treatment experts to educate parents about teenage prescription drug abuse and how to prevent this behavior.

  • PhRMA has partnered with the National Governor’s Association to promote The Prescription Drug Abuse Reduction Policy Academy, a year-long exercise in strategic planning aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse.
  • PhRMA supports the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) Interconnect Program, which is the first national effort to coordinate interoperability among the various states’ Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP’s).
  • PhRMA has worked collaboratively with D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and law enforcement officials to develop a school curriculum to prevent abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
  • PhRMA supports providing consumer education about safe disposal options for their expired and unused medicine, and supports the campaign, a social media pilot program in New York that helps consumers understand their disposal options.

For more information, please see PhRMA’s Prescription Drug Abuse Policy Positions document, which offers a more detailed explanation of our positions. 


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