CDC Webcast Targets Prescription Drug Overdose 'Epidemic'

The Feb. 17 live session of CDC's Public Health Grand Rounds, titled "Prescription Drug Overdoses: An American Epidemic," is intended to help health care professionals and policymakers address the problem.

Two CDC experts and Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, will participate in a Feb. 17 live webcast from Atlanta about the prescription drug overdose problem in America. "Prescription Drug Overdoses: An American Epidemic" is a session of CDC's Public Health Grand Rounds that will be webcast live starting at 1 p.m. EST and then available as an archived video starting Feb. 21. Continuing Education (CE/CME) credits are available.

CDC's announcement says more than 27,000 people died from overdoses in 2007, "a number that has risen five-fold since 1990 and has never been higher. Prescription drugs are now involved in more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. This disturbing mortality trend parallels a ten-fold increase in the medical use of opioid painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone. The increased availability of such powerful drugs has led to widespread abuse -- according to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 5 million Americans abused opioid painkillers in the past month. In addition to the threat of overdose, these people face an elevated risk of injury, crime-related violence, and suicide."

The problem is challenging for health professionals, policymakers, and legislators because patients who legitimately need these medications must have access to them; the webcast will discuss the challenges and state and federal policies and interventions that are helping to reduce injuries and deaths from overdoses.

Participants are Grant Baldwin, Ph.D., MPH, director of the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention at CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; Len Paulozzi, MD, MPH, medical epidemiologist at the division; Gary Franklin, MD, MPH, medical director for the Washington State Agency Medical Directors' Group; and Kerlikowske. Facilitators are Tanja Popovic, MD, Ph.D., and Shane Joiner, scientific director and communication manager, respectively, for Public Health Grand Rounds.

To watch the live broadcast, visit

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