prescription drugs

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Washington state has earned a top grade from the American Cancer Society when it comes to helping people suffering from long-term pain. However, the state’s law on pain medication is unusual enough that the Cancer Society is surveying doctors to learn more about how it’s working.

In the past, many patients in chronic pain—lasting months or years—believed they were just supposed to suffer through it.

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Drug overdose deaths are on the decline across Washington, at least when it comes to prescription painkillers.

Those pills have been under scrutiny since overdose deaths rose dramatically starting in 1998. They reached a peak in 2008, killing more than 500 people that year.

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If you have a condition or injury that leaves you in non-stop pain, for months or years, your doctor might prescribe a powerful painkiller, such as Vicodin or OxyContin. Many doctors are looking for alternatives to these narcotics, and they're sharing approaches this week at a “National Opioid Summit” in SeaTac. 

Concerns about painkillers are rising, because abuse, addiction and overdose deaths are up.

Tuesday. The Northwest has one of the highest Methadone prescription rates in the country.

You’ve probably heard of Methadone in the context of treatment for heroin addiction. But it’s also a painkiller in the same league as Vicodin and OxyContin.

According to the CDC, Methadone prescriptions and overdose deaths peaked in 2007. It’s a trend borne out by drug death numbers from the Seattle area and Oregon. The CDC credits public awareness campaigns and better prescription drug monitoring programs.

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"Nationally, Seattle is fairly high in heroin use."

Last week Washington state saw a spike in heroin-probable deaths. Seven people in King County overdosed on the drug with in just four days.

The spike stands out against a general decline in deaths due more to a decrease in the purity of the drug than a drop in usage, said one researcher. In fact, use among the young has risen by 74 percent.

There's no quick fix for severe depression.

Although antidepressants like Prozac have been around since the 1970s, they usually take weeks to make a difference. And for up to 40 percent of patients, they simply don't work.

As a result, there are limited options when patients show up in an emergency room with suicidal depression.

The doctors and nurses at Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston say they see this problem every day.

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Some doctors on the faculty of Northwest medical schools are getting paid by pharmaceutical companies to give talks on new drugs.

Harvard and Stanford have banned this practice. But not Oregon Health and Science University or the University of Washington. Now some medical students want similar bans here.

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A new approach to prescription painkillers at Group Health Cooperative could become a model for other medical providers. 

Painkillers have become a national concern because they're addictive and there’s been an uptick in overdoses. The number of people who have long-term prescriptions for painkillers has doubled over the past decade. 

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We’ve been hearing a lot about the politics of health care lately.  In the meantime, many employers are in open enrollment season, making for a confusing month when it comes to health insurance.  And for seniors on Medicare,  November brings the annual dilemma about prescription drugs.