Illegal trade in prescription drugs targeted

Curran to press legislature for initiative to solve problem

September 08, 2005|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Saying abuse of such painkillers as OxyContin and Vicodin has become a problem as big as heroin and cocaine, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. unveiled a set of proposals yesterday designed to attack the illegal trade in prescription drugs.

Curran said he will press the General Assembly to enact an electronic prescription drug monitoring program, strengthen laws prohibiting illegal trafficking in the medications, regulate unlicensed pharmacy technicians, create education campaigns and increase training for law enforcement in how to deal with the problem.

"It's a problem that's been overlooked because of our attention on heroin and cocaine and crack," Curran said. "Law enforcement has been aware of it, but a lot of people think that prescription drugs are only used by people who have pain or a surgery, and that's not the case."

In a report released yesterday, Curran noted federal statistics showing that more Americans abuse prescription drugs than all other drugs, except marijuana, combined.

In Maryland, abuse of prescription drugs is rising five times faster than the use of illegal drugs, and law enforcement officials have expressed worry that Baltimore is becoming a hub for illegal OxyContin sales, Curran said.

An electronic monitoring system, in place in 21 states and on the way in 10 others, would enable police, doctors and pharmacists to better track supplies of drugs to identify people who might be obtaining them for illegal distribution, Curran said.

Most surrounding states, including Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, have such programs.

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