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The White House
For Immediate Release

Readout of White House Drug Policy Director’s Meeting with Appalachian Governors

Kerlikowske Discusses Administration Response to Prescription Drug Epidemic with Governors of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and West Virginia;

Residents of Rural Counties Nearly Twice as Likely to Overdose on Painkillers as People in Big Cities

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), met with seven Governors who are members of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to discuss the serious threat of prescription drug abuse to Appalachian communities and the Administration’s efforts to reduce drug use and its consequences through a public health and safety approach. During the meeting, Alabama Governor and ARC Co-chair Robert Bentley, Kentucky Governor Steven Beshear, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, and West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin discussed the toll that prescription drug abuse has taken on Appalachian communities and actions State leaders are taking to prevent abuse and trafficking through education, information-sharing, interstate task force cooperation to crack down on “pill mills,” and treatment programs.
“The devastation wrought by prescription drug abuse on Appalachian communities is simply heartbreaking,” said Director Kerlikowske. “Prescription drug abuse is claiming too many lives, threatening public safety, and placing unnecessary obstacles in the way of economic prosperity in Appalachia. While we must ensure that Americans have legitimate access to lifesaving prescription medications, the Obama Administration also remains laser focused on addressing this epidemic through a comprehensive public health and safety approach. All of us have a role to play in this effort, and I commend Governors from Appalachia for leading the way in recognizing the severity of this challenge and implementing evidence-based reforms to protect their communities from the misery caused by this epidemic.”
“Substance abuse has a far reaching impact on Appalachia,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl. “It devastates families, creates burdens for communities, and undermines the employability of the workforce. ARC is pleased to work together with ONDCP in the fight against the prescription drug epidemic in our Region. We appreciate Director Kerlikowske’s leadership in developing the successful strategies needed to reduce its impact on Appalachia’s economic vitality.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from prescription painkillers have reached epidemic levels in the past decade and now exceed deaths from heroin and cocaine combined. Prescription painkiller overdoses killed nearly 15,000 people in the U.S. in 2008—a rate of 4.8 deaths per 100,000 population. This rate is nearly 4 times the rate for 1999.   Additionally, certain groups are more likely to abuse or overdose on prescription painkillers. People in rural counties are nearly twice as likely to overdose on prescription painkillers as people in big cities.

In April of 2011, the Obama Administration released Epidemic: Responding to America's Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis, a national framework for reducing prescription drug diversion and abuse by supporting the expansion of state-based prescription drug monitoring programs, recommending more convenient and environmentally responsible disposal methods to remove unused medications from the home, supporting education for patients and healthcare providers, and reducing the prevalence of pill mills and doctor shopping through enforcement efforts.

The Food and Drug Administration provides guidelines for the proper disposal of unused or expired medicines, and ONDCP encourages the proper disposal of prescription drugs in an effort to reduce diversion.  On Saturday, April 28th, the Drug Enforcement Administration will host a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. To participate and find a local take back location near you, visit

For more information about the Office of National Drug Control Policy, visit: