I want to talk about a very sad story that happened in New York this week.
On Wednesday, David Laffer was arrested for the alleged murder of four people at a Long Island pharmacy as well as stealing the drug store’s entire supply of hydrocodone, the main ingredient in a popular painkiller. Laffer’s wife, Melinda Brady, was charged with robbery and obstructing governmental administration. She told police that she was sick and her husband, a former soldier, had stolen the pills for her.
Police said Laffer pleaded not guilty Thursday and showed no remorse for the shootings.
Though this is one isolated case, from a medical perspective, I think it’s pretty clear that we have a prescription drug epidemic in this country.
According to statistics from IMS Health, a health care consulting firm, Americans consume 80 percent of all prescription painkillers. That tells you we have a problem with drug addiction in this country.
I’m primarily going to criticize the medical profession for this problem. I think doctors are doing a poor job in identifying patients who come in asking for painkillers who may be at high risk of addiction and drug abuse. A full work-up should always be done on these patients.
The problem is that many doctors seem to be very complacent in rewriting orders for prescription drugs without giving much thought to it.
Meanwhile, it’s a known fact that the vast majority of prescription painkillers are being consumed by people who are not the intended receivers. There are prescription mills out there to fuel their addictions.
I’m also going to have to criticize state regulatory bodies here. In many states, there are no narcotic prescription registries, which make it easier for patients to shop around.
I believe that certain painkillers need to be reclassified. Take Vicodin, for instance. If this drug were to be reclassified, it would limit the amount of prescriptions and number of pills that a doctor could give out.
After all, when you look at the desperation that prescription drug abusers tend to have, and the lengths they’re willing to go to, it’s obvious that something needs to be done.
My heart goes out to the families of the victims of this drug store massacre. I hope this story serves as a wake-up call to others. Patients and doctors need to work together in minimizing the risk of drug abuse, and the government needs to do a better job in creating protective laws for consumers as well as the medical community.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Click here for more information on Dr. Manny's work with Hackensack University Medical Center. Visit AskDrManny.com for more.