Ferguson discusses opioid epidemic with Rotarians

Attorney General Bob Ferguson tells Sunnyside Noon Rotary Club members the opioid crisis affects people from all socio-economic backgrounds.

SUNNYSIDE — A trip to Central Washington included a discussion about the opioid epidemic with Noon Rotary Club members May 21.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the opioid epidemic has no socio-economic boundaries.

“People are dying,” he said.

Ferguson said there were enough opioids prescribed in 2013 to supply “… every man, woman and child in the state of Washington for 16 days.”

The crisis is national, but some states have enacted legislation to limit the number of pills that can be pre-scribed. There are also several states with prescription monitoring programs, Ferguson said.

He’s proposed such bills to legislators, but the proposals haven’t made it far in spite of bipartisan support.

“Now, we are behind on limits and prescription monitoring programs,” Ferguson said.

“It’s a crisis — time is of the essence.”

Problem with prescription opioids arise as a result of pharmaceutical companies encouraging medical professionals to prescribe the medications. The medication is prescribed for nearly every manner of pain management from minor procedures to major surgeries.

Ferguson said prescriptions for those with chronic pain, like cancer patients, are in another category than someone who’s prescribed a 30-day supply of opioids for an outpatient oral procedure.

One Rotarian said he was prescribed medication by his dentist, a 30-day supply. He said he only needed a 1-day supply.

“What am I supposed to do with the rest?” he asked.

Another member of the club said she’s seen the impact of addiction, wondering if someone she cared about would go so far as to use his dog’s pain medication.

Ferguson said those are concerns with opioids.

An oversupply of the medications can lead to an individual believing they must finish the entire bottle, or other people taking them from a medicine cabinet and either using them or distributing them for money, he said.

“Addicts will do anything for them,” Ferguson said of opioids.

His office has been working on a lawsuit against Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Oxycotin.

The company denied the medication is addictive, and representatives told doctors that patients seeking additional prescriptions of the drug are in pain. “They told them it was pseudo-addiction,” Ferguson said.

The company’s answer to doctors was to prescribe more of the drug for pain management.

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