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DENVER — Generic versions of popular pain relievers must be made harder to abuse, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and 47 other state and territorial attorneys general told federal officials in a letter sent today by the National Association of Attorneys General to the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The letter encourages the FDA to adopt standards requiring manufacturers and marketers of generic prescription painkillers to develop tamper- and abuse-resistant versions of their products.
“Adding new physical and chemical features to prescription opioids to deter abuse could reduce misuse of these drugs and the sometimes deadly consequences. These products can be part of a comprehensive approach which should include prevention, interdiction, prosecution and substance-abuse treatment,” the letter states.
Colorado is now number two in the nation on a per capita basis for prescription drug abuse and the problem is on the rise nationally. The manufacturers of name-brand painkillers such as OxyContin have taken steps to make it more difficult to abuse their drugs, for example by making it harder to crush pills which abusers do in order to inject or snort the drug.
“In our states, nonmedical users are shifting away from the new, tamper-resistant formulations to non-tamper-resistant formulations of other opioids as well as to illegal drugs. There is great concern in our law enforcement community that many non-tamper-resistant products are available for abuse when only a few products have been formulated with tamper-resistant features,” the attorneys general wrote in their letter to the FDA.
“In Colorado, prescription drug abuse deaths exceed substance-impaired traffic fatalities,” said Suthers. “And according to the Colorado Department of Human Services, Division of Behavioral Health, deaths in Colorado related to prescription drug abuse from opioids nearly doubled from 180 in 2000 to 343 in 2010. The takeaway from these examples is that Colorado has a growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse in Colorado that must be dealt with which is why I’ve asked the FDA for its support.”
Attorneys general from the following states and territories signed onto the letter: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper led the effort to get state attorneys general to write to the FDA about the problem.