Drug Detox Demand Could Increase with FDA's 'Behind-the-Counter' Plan

Drug Detox Demand Could Increase with FDA's 'Behind-the-Counter' Plan

The fact that prescription drug addiction and abuse has surpassed that of illegal drugs means one thing - you can't trust drug companies or regulating bodies to ensure your safety. In fact, even your family doctor might not know everything he needs to know about a drug. The vast majority of doctors prescribe drugs in good faith but, they, like their patients, have been duped.

As a result, people who need drug detox and rehab continue to receive prescriptions for drugs to which they are or may become addicted. In light of the dangers of prescription drug addiction, and especially after the OxyContin disasters and the growing numbers of OxyContin addicts going into drug detox and rehab, you would think the FDA would be discussing how it can refine the approval process for and the distribution of prescription drugs. But the FDA seems to be going in the opposite direction: it is considering making some prescription-only drugs available with only a pharmacist's okay. Other countries have similar systems and don't seem too impressed with it. "I can't really recommend it," said David Skinner, president of the Nonprescription Drug Manufacturers Association of Canada. "But we've had it for such a long time that we've come to live with it." The UK also has a 'behind-the-counter' drug system.

Vanderbilt University pharmacologist Alastair Wood, who chaired the FDA advisory committee meeting and voted that cholesterol-reducing Mevacor be made available over the counter, said panelists on the committee put too much faith in behind-the-counter drugs. He said he's gone to UK pharmacies and bought something behind the counter and has usually just been handed the drug, no questions asked. The system is "not that rigorous," he said. Drugs sold behind the counter in Canada include pain relievers, sleep aids, and weight control products - the types of drugs involved in the vast majority of drug addiction and abuse cases in the U.S. And, if they're narcotics or benzodiazepines, they also send many people to drug detox centers.

The FDA says it will only consider the behind-the-counter systems for drugs that do not have the potential for addiction or abuse, but they're bound to be stronger that over-the-counter drugs, which are already abused and are already sending people to ERs and drug detox. The fact that OxyContin completely slipped through the FDA's screening and approval process also doesn't inspire confidence. Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, just paid out $634.5 million in damages for representing the drug as less addictive and less subject to abuse than other painkillers. As with any new program, implementing the behind-the-counter system will cost money. Lots of it. That money might be better spent on tightening regulations, educating doctors and the public, restricting sales, and on a good drug detox program for those already suffering from prescription drug addiction.

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