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Governor Martin O'Malley Joins Nation's Drug Czar, Health and Law Enforcement Stakeholders To Discuss Prescription Drug Abuse Monitoring and Prevention

Press Release

Location: Baltimore, MD

Governor Martin O'Malley today convened a roundtable discussion on Maryland's new Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, signed into law by the Governor this morning. He was joined at the event by Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Dozens of representatives of the medical, pharmaceutical and law enforcement communities also took part.

The Governor convened the discussion at the laboratory of the National Institute on Drug Abuse on the Johns Hopkins Bayview Campus. The laboratory, known as the Intramural Research Laboratory, is a major federal center for research on the causes and prevention of drug abuse.

"Public safety is among our most solemn obligations as public servants, and preventing the abuse of prescription drugs -- the fastest growing drug problem in Maryland -- is a big part of our strategy to protect Maryland families," said Governor O'Malley. "Thousands of Marylanders every year are suffering from the scourge of addiction. Our new program will link public health and public safety systems to knock down the silos that currently block information-sharing and provide the knowledge that is essential to the health and well-being of the people of our state."

The new system will focus on potentially addictive prescription drugs, and electronically link the medical and pharmaceutical communities. It will enable professionals to track use of prescription drugs and recognize trends indicating abuse. This will make it clear if a patient is engaging in "doctor shopping" and shed light on "pill mills," through which drugs are accumulated and sold illegally. When probable cause arises pointing to illegal use of certain prescription drugs, law enforcement will be able, with a subpoena, to draw on information from the system and follow up with appropriate criminal investigations.

"I congratulate Governor O'Malley and the State of Maryland for becoming the 47th state to sign a prescription drug monitoring program into law," said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy. "As public health officials in Maryland know all too well, the abuse of prescription drugs impose a tremendous burden on the residents of Maryland. This vital piece of legislation is a tremendous step forward in combating our national prescription drug abuse epidemic and will save lives by identifying, deterring, and preventing drug abuse and diversion, while at the same time allowing access to legitimate use of prescription drugs."

The Maryland program will be administered by the State's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, DHMH Secretary joined the Governor and Mr. Kerlikowske at the discussion.

"Together we will reverse the rise of prescription drug abuse in Maryland," said Joshua M. Sharfstein M.D., Maryland's Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene. "Health care providers can use this tool to spot patients in trouble and begin the treatment process."

Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in Maryland. Illegal diversion of prescription drugs takes a heavy toll on the public health and safety in the state.

* Between 2007 and 2010, treatment admissions related to abuse of prescription opiates in Maryland increased 106 percent.
* Between 2007 and 2010, poison control calls related to oxycodone increased 250 percent.
* In 2010, 55 percent of all intoxication deaths in Maryland involved a prescription opiate.

The new law creating the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program calls for the creation of a multi-disciplinary Advisory Board on Prescription Drug Monitoring to make recommendations on the design and implementation of the program, including regulations, legislation, and sources of funding. The Board will report annually on the impact of the program and include state health officials, physicians, pharmacists, law enforcement, and patients.

Stakeholders from Maryland's health community as well as law enforcement joined the Governor at the roundtable today, to discuss their role in the monitoring program and offer insights into the abuse of prescription drugs and its prevention.

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