Pharmacists statewide will soon get information from the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy that will help them explain to patients the need to be careful with the pain drug methadone.
Also, the West Virginia Medical Association plans to educate doctors about the risks involved in prescribing methadone, and the state Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse is educating addiction counselors about methadone.
A Gazette investigation published last week found that methadone is helping to kill more people nationwide than any other prescription narcotic, and West Virginia�s methadone death rate is the nation�s highest.
�We�re going to try to educate the pharmacists about the severity of this issue,� said William Douglass, executive director and general counsel to the Board of Pharmacy.
Since 2003, the board has collected data on prescriptions dispensed in West Virginia. Between 2003 and 2005, the number of prescriptions for methadone rose 26 percent, from 22,246 prescriptions to 27,976.
Prescriptions for the strongest formulation, 40 milligrams, more than tripled, Douglass said.
The prescription database tracks only methadone prescribed by doctors for pain. Its figures do not include methadone that is sold by clinics to treat drug addiction.
West Virginia�s addiction counselors are seeing a flood of people hooked on prescription narcotics that shows no sign of abating, said Steve Mason, director of the state Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
Mason ranks prescription drugs behind only alcohol and marijuana as the most common substances being abused in West Virginia today.
�Methadone is a good drug when it is used legitimately for pain. Unfortunately, the addict can be very creative and will mix methadone with other drugs to try to get high,� Mason said.
The division is spending $100,000 on a prescription drug awareness campaign, Mason said. The money comes from a settlement Attorney General Darrell McGraw received from the makers of OxyContin, another prescription painkiller.