HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania ranks 14th in the rate of drug overdose deaths, according to a national study released Monday that also gave the state a low score on implementing strategies to curb prescription drug abuse.
The Washington-based Trust for America's Health said Pennsylvania had 15.3 overdose deaths per 100,000 residents in 2010, mostly involving prescription drugs that the group says now kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined. That represents an increase of 89 percent from 1999, when there were 8.1 drug deaths per 100,000 people.
The report also said Pennsylvania was among 28 states and the District of Columbia that have implemented six or fewer of 10 "indicators" of specific drug-abuse prevention strategies that the trust considers promising.
Pennsylvania satisfied four indicators, including a program for monitoring the dispensation of certain controlled substances, a law barring patients from withholding information from doctors about their prior prescriptions and a law requiring doctors to examine patients or have a bona fide patient-physician relationship before prescribing a controlled substance.
Indicators the state lacks include a requirement that doctors use the existing monitoring program, which is administered by the attorney general's office; a law to expand the use by laymen of "naloxone," a prescription drug that can help counteract an overdose; and a law requiring or permitted pharmacists to require IDs before dispensing controlled substances.
Gov. Tom Corbett's office had no immediate comment about the report.
West Virginia led the nation in fatal overdoses in 2010 with nearly 29 per 100,000 people, according to the report.