Earlier this week I joined five other state attorneys general in calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to overturn the recent approval of Zohydro ER, a pure hydrocodone pill reported to be five to 10 times more potent than products currently available on the market, such as Vicodin or Lortab. In October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Zohydro against the recommendation of its advisory panel, which voted 11-2 in opposition because of the drug’s high potential for misuse and its lack of an abuse-deterrent formulation. The FDA’s decision to approve Zohydro does not make sense. Unlike extended-release opioids containing abuse-deterrent properties, there is nothing that would prevent someone from easily crushing or injecting the drug to get high. For decades, we have fought the disastrous effects of the illegal marketing of the drug OxyContin in Kentucky, and I do not want to see the great strides we have made combating prescription drug abuse reversed. You can read a copy of the letter that my fellow attorneys general and I sent to Sec. Kathleen Sebelius here.
Our efforts in Kentucky to prevent prescription drug abuse are making a difference. For the first time, the state is below the national average for prescription drug abuse. Additionally, the percentage of Kentucky teens misusing prescriptions drugs has dropped dramatically over the past four years. While these statistics are encouraging, I remain committed to curbing the cycle of addiction that continues to plague our Commonwealth. On Tuesday, I was thrilled to visit schools in Scott and Anderson counties to speak with students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and heroin. Joined by Van Ingram, the executive director for the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, and Mike Donta, a concerned parent who lost his son after a long battle with prescription drug addition, we shared our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe message with approximately 1,650 students at the Scott County Ninth Grade School and Anderson County High School. They were two great groups of kids, and I appreciate Principals Dwayne Ellison and Chris Glass for allowing us to visit. Tapings from our Keep Kentucky Kids Safe programs are available on my YouTube channel here. Don’t forget to click "Subscribe" to get the latest videos from our office.
Kentucky is reported as having the third-highest rate of fatal overdoses in the country -- the vast majority from prescription pills. However, heroin is becoming the drug of choice across Kentucky, affecting our largest cities and our smallest communities. On Wednesday, I testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee regarding Senate Bill 5. The bipartisan legislation, which I helped craft with Sen. Katie Stine and Rep. John Tilley, is designed to address Kentucky’s growing heroin problem. Through September of 2013, our Commonwealth saw nearly 180 overdose deaths involving heroin. We are losing far too many people as a result of this dangerous and highly addictive drug. Senate Bill 5, which would stiffen penalties for drug traffickers and increase access to treatment for drug addicts, advanced out of committee this week, and I remain hopeful the full legislature will pass the bill by the end of this year’s legislative session.
Finally, I enjoyed speaking to the Frankfort Rotary Club on Wednesday afternoon. I appreciate the Rotarians for inviting me to share the latest news from the Office of the Attorney General with them and talk about how we can all work together to move Kentucky forward. I’m also looking forward to a great Sweet 16 basketball game tonight between the Cards and the Cats! I am very proud of what these teams have accomplished this year, and I love when the players from both schools have the opportunity to share their talents with the rest of the country on the national stage. Good luck to both teams!