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AG Roy Cooper - North Carolina's Wyatt EarpMarianne Skolek Salem-News.com
First in a series highlighting states fighting the epidemic of prescription drug addiction, abuse, death and the "over-treatment of pain" in America.
(MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.) - AG Cooper supports expanding access to state computer records identifying people with prescriptions for certain drugs. Recently in Charlotte, N.C., Cooper called prescription-drug abuse the biggest drug threat today. He made his remarks at a meeting with law enforcement leaders from North Carolina and 25 other states to discuss better ways to fight illegal drugs.
Deaths in North Carolina associated with prescription-drug abuse rose from 798 in 2008 to 826 in 2009, he said. "That tells us we have a problem and we need to deal with it."
The state sheriff's association called for access to electronic records earlier this month at a legislative health care committee meeting. Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Pain Foundation, a lobbying organization supporting the marketing of the term "the undertreatment of pain in America" said "law enforcement shouldn't be poking around people's medicine cabinets."
The ACLU opposed a bill in 2007 that would have opened the electronic list to law enforcement officials. The organization would probably object to the new proposal, officials said.
Cooper said 20 State Bureau of Investigation agents currently have access to prescription-drug records and he would support opening the system to more law enforcement officials, such as designated sheriff's deputies or police.
"Obviously there needs to be balance with privacy. This is very private information about people's prescription drugs," he said. "On the other hand, we know the deaths that these drugs can cause and the abuse of them. And being able to have a system in place that can show us who is abusing prescription drugs and who is getting them illegally can be helpful."
The state started collecting the information in 2007 to assist physicians in targeting patients who "doctor shop" going from doctor to doctor looking for prescription drugs they may not need, and to keep pharmacists from supplying patients with too many pills.
Cooper said he's also been meeting with doctors with the N.C. Medical Society, asking them to check the state's prescription-drug data base when they suspect a patient may be doctor shopping or trying to collect drugs to abuse or sell.
So as the "Wyatt Earp" of North Carolina, AG Cooper rides into the "tsunami" of prescription drug addiction, abuse and death in his state, supporters of Purdue Pharma's pain societies lobby for the "undertreatment of pain" in America by posting unprofessional and insensitive comments on their blogs such as "Laughter was once the best medicine, but little white pills kick laughter's ass."
Wyatt Earp's gunfight at the O.K. Corral has come to symbolize the struggle between legal authority and banditry. AG Cooper's struggle will be keeping "medicine cabinets" open to law enforcement in an effort to save lives -- and stand up to the multi billion dollar pharmaceutical industry.
Salem-News.com Reporter Marianne Skolek, is an Activist for Victims of OxyContin throughout the United States and Canada. In July 2007, she testified against Purdue Pharma in Federal Court in Virginia at the sentencing of their three CEO's who pled guilty to charges of marketing OxyContin as less likely to be addictive or abused to physicians and patients. She also testified against Purdue Pharma at a Judiciary Hearing of the U.S. Senate in July 2007. Marianne works with government agencies and private attorneys in having a voice for her daughter Jill, who died in 2002 after being prescribed OxyContin, as well as the voice for scores of victims of OxyContin. She has been involved in her work for the past 7-1/2 years and is currently working on a book that exposes Purdue Pharma for their continued criminal marketing of OxyContin.
Marianne is a nurse having graduated in 1991 as president of her graduating class. She also has a Paralegal certification. Marianne served on a Community Service Board for the Courier News, a Gannet newspaper in NJ writing articles predominantly regarding AIDS patients and their emotional issues. She was awarded a Community Service Award in 1993 by the Hunterdon County, NJ HIV/AIDS Task Force in recognition of and appreciation for the donated time, energy and love in facilitating a Support Group for persons with HIV/AIDS.
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