Bloomberg School's Dean Plans Symposium on Rx Drug Abuse

Writing in the Fall 2012 issue of Johns Hopkins Public Health, Dean Michael J. Klag calls for the same kind of collaboration as has been used to reduce annual traffic deaths significantly.

The dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, recommends a systems approach that involves all stakeholders -– including state and federal authorities, physicians, pharmacists, and law enforcement -– to tackle the U.S. epidemic in abuse of prescription drugs, specifically opioids, sedatives, and stimulants.

Writing in the in the Fall 2012 issue of Johns Hopkins Public Health, Klag says he has asked faculty members from the school's Center for Injury Research and Policy, which was founded in 1987, as well as the soon-to-be-launched Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness to convene stakeholders for a symposium next spring to discuss the problem and potential solutions.

He writes that the collaboration that has reduced annual motor vehicle fatalities is a good model for what's needed here.

"We need the same kind of effective collaboration today to reduce prescription drug deaths," Klag writes in his column. "Patients and the public need to understand the risks, as well as the benefits, of taking these medications, how to safely store them, and methods of proper disposal when they are no longer needed. New drugs with less addiction potential must be developed. All states should have Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs that track prescription drug use. Even better, these state-based databases have to talk to one another. We also need to improve communications among clinicians, health agencies, pharmacists, drug manufacturers and law enforcement. Lastly, we need rational policies that promote judicious use of powerful prescription medications while limiting misuse that can lead to addiction and death.

"Academic centers like the Bloomberg School can and should play the role of a trusted partner that brings groups together to find effective answers. By convening all stakeholders, we can devise better solutions," he predicts.

The Center for Injury Research and Policy announced this month that its 2012 Community Hero award went to Joan Claybrook, president emeritus of the group Public Citizen and a former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for her work on behalf of motor vehicle safety. (Claybrook was the head of NHTSA when its first standards requiring air bags in passenger vehicles and the first fuel economy laws were enacted.) The award recognizes distinguished injury prevention leaders and exemplary programs that contribute to improving communities' safety.

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