PIKEVILLE, Ky. — On Thursday afternoon the United States drug czar will attend a roundtable discussion at Pikeville College's School of Osteopathic Medicine.
Gil Kerlikowske, the White House Director of Drug Control Policy, will participate as the school's faculty and students delve into the arena of substance abuse — especially prescription drug abuse. This one of several stops he will be making during a tour of Kentucky and West Virginia. The discussion will include public health administrators, physicians and pharmacists, members of the judicial community, and representatives from Operation Unite and WestCare Kentucky.
In addition, Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford, Pike County Sheriff Charles "Fuzzy" Keesee and attorney Gary C. Johnson have requested to meet with him prior to attending an event.
“It’s heartbreaking what’s going on there,” Kerlikowske told the Associated Press. “It’s not just the deaths, but it’s also the devastation to families – people using what little money they have oftentimes to buy these pills.”
He said Kentucky's drug problems begin in the family medicine cabinet.
Pike County is currently involved in ongoing litigation against oxycontin manufacturer Purdue Pharma for misleading doctors and the public about the harmful effects of oxycontin. Purdue Pharma and three of its executives were ordered by a federal judge in 2007 to pay over $634 million for misleading people about the drug’s risk of addiction, according to the Associated Press.
“We have seen a pill epidemic here in Pike County like no other I have ever seen or heard of,” Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford said. “It’s pleasing that our federal government has taken notice and that the White House Drug Czar will be seeing first-hand the areas of the country where pills, especially oxycontin, have ravaged people and families.
“At one point I was attending at least two funerals a week for people who had died from the use of oxycontin,” Rutherford said. “This drug is destroying an entire generation of people in Pike County.”
Physician education is considered to be a key component to fully addressing the prescription drug issue, and Office of Drug Policy Control has been reaching out to various healthcare educational and professional societies to address prescriber education. Kerlikowske will discuss the Obama Administration’s response to the public health and safety threats posed by drug abuse, specifically the prescription drug epidemic – and drug-related crime.
“Prescription drug abuse and its consequences is the nation’s fastest growing drug problem. The Obama Administration is mounting an unprecedented effort to address this national public health epidemic through a balanced approach of education, monitoring, proper disposal and law enforcement,” said Kerlikowske. “Physicians and others in the healthcare field play an important role in preventing drug abuse but more education is needed on how to recognize and treat this disease and on the consequences of overprescribing prescription medication. With programs specifically related to substance abuse, the Pikeville College School of Osteopathic Medicine is helping the doctors of tomorrow reduce drug use in America.”
Pikeville College President Paul E. Patton will be among those participating in the roundtable discussion.
“We are looking forward to Director Kerlikowske’s visit to our campus and the opportunity to be a part of this very important effort,” said Patton. “Our community partnerships with organizations like WestCare provide our medical students with valuable educational experiences.”
The roundtable discussion on Feb. 24 will be held at 4 p.m. in Pikeville College’s Booth Auditorium, Record Memorial Building, level five. A reception will follow. The community is invited to attend. For more information, contact Dr. William Betz, PCSOM senior associate dean for osteopathic education, at (606) 218-5420.