Ohio must take next step to defeat increasing ODs

Buckeye State residents should, perhaps, take some pride in knowing the American Medical Association calls Ohio the top state in the country, in terms of monitoring prescription drugs. The Board of Pharmacy’s Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System, established in 2006, has processed more than 24 million queries from doctors and other health professionals. In 2015, Gov. John Kasich had it integrated directly into electronic medical records and pharmacy dispensing systems.

According to the Board of Pharmacy, “OARRS collects information on all outpatient prescriptions for controlled substances dispensed by Ohio-licensed pharmacies and personally furnished by licensed prescribers in Ohio. Drug wholesalers are also required to submit information on all controlled substances sold to an Ohio licensed pharmacy or prescriber. The data is reported every 24 hours and is maintained in a secure database.”

By all accounts, it is a fantastic system, and one worth accolades from the likes of the AMA.

Some experts, however, worry Ohio did such a good job with that crackdown that it drove addicts to even stronger street drugs. And the number of drug overdose deaths in Ohio is increasing: 4,149 died last year (a 36 percent increase from the previous year). Coroners across the state say this year’s overdose fatality numbers are outpacing 2016.

We have seen plenty of evidence to back that up, right here in northeastern Ohio.

Dr. Thomas P. Gilson, Cuyahoga County’s medical examiner, last month told a U.S. Senate committee studying ways to combat illicit drugs, “The opiate crisis is a slow-moving mass-fatality event that occurred last year, is occurring again this year and will occur again next year.”

Certainly the majority of more recent deaths are due to heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and any number of deadly combinations and new ingredients.

Ohio officials did a remarkable job of locking down the pill mills that started this plague. It turns out that was just the beginning of their fight. It is time for them to focus the same common sense and resources that created OARRS into winning the next battle — and, eventually, the war.