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prescription drugs

Prescription drug overdose deaths appear to be subsiding in Oklahoma as new laws and outreach efforts take effect. But black-market methamphetamine and heroin deaths are surging.

Drug law enforcers and medical professionals said they were both encouraged and alarmed by the latest overdose death data, generated by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and compiled by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.

The encouragement comes from increasing evidence that tougher oversight and outreach are causing the toll of prescription drug overdoses to stabilize and decline slightly.

The Wellness Clinic in Roland
Anny Sivilay / Sequoah County Times

The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous drugs has revoked the narcotic prescribing license of Dr. Ronald V. Myers Sr., a physician in Roland, Okla., who prescribed 4.6 million dosage units of addictive drugs over an 18-month period in 2013 and 2014.

In a document filed Thursday, the bureau said Myers' record as medical director of the Wellness Clinic in Roland provided "clear and convincing evidence" of multiple instances of overprescribing activity.

madpoet_one / Flickr Creative Commons

Prescription drug monitoring legislation that is one of Gov. Mary Fallin's top priorities for the 2015 Legislature has been sent to the Oklahoma Senate.

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services voted 8-1 for the measure Monday and sent it to the full Senate for a vote. The bill was previously approved by the Oklahoma House.

The measure by Republican Sen. A.J. Griffin of Guthrie requires health care providers to consult a prescription drug repository before prescribing or refilling opiates and a variety of other narcotics.

madpoet_one / Flickr Creative Commons

Hydrocodone is no longer the top drug prescribed to Oklahoma Medicaid patients.

The Oklahoman newspaper reports that according to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the painkiller hydrocodone has held the top spot for more than five years.

Authority officials say that the drop is due to the changes in state and federal guidelines that reclassified hydrocodone as a more restrictive drug, which makes it more burdensome to prescribe.

madpoet_one / Flickr Creative Commons

The Oklahoma House has approved prescription drug monitoring legislation that is one of Gov. Mary Fallin's top priorities for the 2015 Legislature.

House members voted 64-30 for the measure Monday and sent it to the Senate for debate and a vote. The bill was approved without opposition last week by the House Alcohol, Tobacco and Controlled Substances Committee.

The measure by Republican Rep. Doug Cox of Grove requires health care providers to consult a prescription drug repository before prescribing or refilling opiates and a variety of other narcotics.

madpoet_one / Flickr Creative Commons

The Oklahoma State Medical Association has thrown its support behind legislation that would create a prescription monitoring program in the state.

The association's president, Dr. Todd Brockman, expressed support for the proposal Tuesday after a state House committee voted 7-0 to send the measure by Rep. Doug Cox of Grove to the House floor for debate and a vote.

Brockman says the group understands the state has a serious prescription drug abuse problem but does not look forward to another unfunded mandate being placed on health care providers.

The Wellness Clinic in Roland
Anny Sivilay / Sequoah County Times

Gov. Mary Fallin and key lawmakers are pushing new legislation this year that would require Oklahoma doctors to check an online database before writing prescriptions for addictive painkillers and other frequently abused drugs.

The compromise bill currently being negotiated with physician groups would require doctors to check the database the first time they write a new prescription for three classes of addictive drugs and at least once every 180 days after that.

madpoet_one / Flickr Creative Commons

Drug overdoses caused by prescription drug abuse are a growing problem in rural Oklahoma.

The Oklahoman reports that while most overdoses occur in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, rural counties in the state represent a growing segment of the prescription drug epidemic.

Craig County in northeastern Oklahoma has been the worst in the state in recent years in terms of drug overdoses, both fatal and nonfatal. For the past two years in which information is available, Craig County has posted the highest overdose rates per 10,000 residents in Oklahoma.

The Wellness Clinic in Roland
Anny Sivilay / Sequoah County Times

This story is part of a joint project by Oklahoma Watch and The Oklahoman, examining the state’s high rate of prescription painkiller overdoses.

If there were an official business model for a high-volume pain clinic, drug enforcers say, it would probably resemble the Wellness Clinic in Roland.

U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded Oklahoma a grant of more than $1 million that will be distributed over the next three years to help prevent prescription drug overdoses.

The grant will help Oklahoma officials improve the state's prescription drug monitoring program and identify drug abuse hot spots.

The CDC says Oklahoma has the sixth-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the U.S.

Centers for Disease Control And Prevention

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Oklahoma tied for fifth in the nation in the rate  of painkillers prescribed to its residents.

The CDC says Oklahoma doctors wrote about 128 opioid pain reliever prescriptions, drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone, per 100 state residents.

The Javoric / Flickr Creative Commons

Gov. Mary Fallin and two of the leading physician groups in Oklahoma are at an impasse over the final details in a bill designed to curb prescription drug abuse in Oklahoma.

Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz confirms the governor was not able to reach an agreement with the Oklahoma State Medical Association and Oklahoma Osteopathic Association on which drugs should be checked in a prescription drug monitoring database.

The Javoric / Flickr Creative Commons

When the state of Kentucky decided two years ago to require doctors to check their patients’ drug-taking histories before writing new narcotic prescriptions, some physicians were adamantly opposed.

The doctors said mandatory checks would cause them to waste valuable time and money running checks on patients with legitimate pain and anxiety problems. They said they didn’t need an online database to help them spot “doctor-shoppers” who might be obtaining prescriptions from more than one doctor.

Then, a funny thing happened.

Leading the list of Prescription Monitoring Program prescriptions and overdose contributors are three popular pharmaceuticals: hydrocodone, an opiod painkiller sold under the brand names Lortab, Vicodin, Vicoprofen, Norco and Tussionex; oxycodone, another opiod painkiller sold as OxyContin and Percoset, and alprazolam, an anti-anxiety drug marketed as Xanax.

a stack of dollar bills with a stethoscope and bottle of pills
James Martin / Flickr

Cards that provide a discount on prescription medications for the needy in Oklahoma will be offered through a partnership with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

The food bank announced the partnership with Watertree Health in which every person served by the food bank will be given a free Regional Food Bank Prescription card.

Food bank officials say the card is good for discounts on both brand name and generic prescriptions and is accepted at a variety of outlets and pharmacies that fill prescriptions.

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