May 29, 2012 – The New York City Health Department this week launched a new TV campaign as part of the Bloomberg Administration’s ongoing effort to curb rising abuse and overdoses from prescription painkillers. The 30-second spot underscores the serious health consequences of misusing these drugs, which are called opioids. These drugs are prescribed by doctors but when misused can lead to addiction or fatal overdose. The release of the ad follows the publication in December 2011 of Health Department guidance to physicians on how to prescribe these more carefully, and the formation of the Mayor’s Task Force on Prescription Painkiller Abuse, co-chaired by Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt.
“As the use of prescription painkillers has increased we’re seeing more people dying from overdose related to these drugs,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “New Yorkers may not realize how dangerous these drugs can be because they are prescribed by doctors and other medical professionals. But opioids can kill.”
Poisoning is now the leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States, surpassing motor vehicle fatalities, due mainly to the dramatic increase in overdoses associated with prescription painkillers. In 2010, prescription painkillers were involved in 171 unintentional drug poisoning (overdose) deaths in New York City, a 30 percent increase from 2005. Opioid drug overdose deaths increased by 180 percent on Staten Island, the largest increase of any borough. In fact, prescription opioid overdoses killed more Staten Island residents in 2009 and in 2010 than either motor vehicle accidents or homicides.
The ad advises patients to:
- Take prescription opioids only as directed.
- Never take more than prescribed.
- Never share prescription opioids.
The Health Department also advises patients to:
- Keep pills in their original, labeled containers, out of sight and out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet or on a high shelf.
- Get rid of painkillers that you are no longer using. Having prescription painkillers in your home increases the risk that another person might find and misuse them. Dispose of your medication by flushing them down the toilet
In December 2011, the Department issued guidelines to physicians on how to prescribe opioids carefully to reduce the risks of abuse and fatal drug overdose. For treatment of acute pain, the Department recommends prescribing only short-acting agents and no more than a 3-day supply in most cases. For chronic non-cancer pain, the Department recommends avoiding opioids unless other treatments have been demonstrated to be ineffective.
In 2010, City residents filled more than two million opioid prescriptions. Staten Island had the highest rate of prescriptions filled per capita followed by Manhattan, Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn.
The 30-second spot will run City-wide on broadcast and cable channels from May 28, 2012 through June 2012. The spot will run more frequently on Staten Island.
The public campaign comes as Governor Cuomo and the Legislature are considering several bills to address the growing problem of opioid misuse. The Mayor’s Task Force on Prescription Painkiller Abuse has made a number of proposals so far, including strengthening the State’s prescription drug monitoring system, requiring training for prescribers of high doses of opioids, and promoting the City’s clinical guidance on opioid prescribing.
For more information on safe prescription drug use, search “opioid” on NYC.gov.