The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is holding a Pharmacy Diversion Awareness Conference (PDAC) in Pittsburgh, Pa. December 10-11. The conference is part of the DEA’s ongoing 360 Strategy to address prescription opioid and heroin abuse in Western Pennsylvania. Hundreds of pharmacists from across Pennsylvania are expected to attend the conference jointly hosted by Demetra Ashley, DEA’s Associate Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Diversion Control, and Philadelphia Field Division Special Agent in Charge Gary Tuggle.
“Eight out of ten new heroin users started by abusing prescription opioids,” said Tuggle in his opening remarks. “Speaking with pharmacy personnel about the link between the non-medical use of prescription opioids and heroin abuse at the PDAC is a key component of the DEA 360 Strategy.”
The PDAC is a free training designed to assist pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and loss prevention personnel employed by pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics in identifying and preventing diversion. Today’s day-long session will be repeated tomorrow for a different group of attendees, doubling the number of registered pharmacists who can participate.
The diversion of prescription opioids, essentially abusing prescription narcotics, is a growing problem nationwide but also in Western Pennsylvania. This diversion stems from various sources: pharmacy robberies and thefts, forged prescriptions, doctor shopping, or illegitimate prescriptions from rogue practitioners.
“Too many Americans—more than 46,000 a year—tragically die from drug overdoses, including from opioid painkillers and heroin,” Ashley added. “DEA and Pennsylvania’s pharmacists working together can help to lower that number in this state.”
On November 10, 2015, the DEA announced Pittsburgh as the first pilot city in the nation where the 360 Strategy would be implemented. The goals of the 360 Strategy include stopping the deadly cycle of prescription opioid and heroin abuse by eliminating the drug trafficking organizations fueling violence on the streets and addiction in communities. The strategy includes partnering with healthcare professionals as well as engaging and strengthening community and social service organizations that are best positioned to provide long-term help and support for building drug-free communities.