Guest commentary: ADP technology could help save lives

Guest commentary: ADP technology could help save lives

By Chelsea A. Laliberte

In the blink of an eye, your life can be completely turned upside down.

In December 2008, life as I knew it would never be the same; I lost my brother Alex to a drug overdose. Since then, it has been my goal to ensure we do everything we can to develop solutions to the drug abuse and overdose epidemic on both a statewide and national scale.

Nearly 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with chronic pain and rely on prescription pain medications, also known as opioids, to maintain a functional lifestyle. Prescription painkillers are often the only answer for many people who struggle with chronic pain.

Unfortunately, these prescription drugs are extremely addictive and can take people down a dangerous path to addiction. A path that for people like my brother Alex can be one of no return.

Prescription opioid abuse was the catalyst for Alex's opioid use disorder, resulting in a heroin overdose that took his life.

It is our responsibility to do everything we can to ensure that these very important painkillers are as safe as possible and encourage people to use them responsibly. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, there were 339 deaths in 2012 due to prescription opioid overdoses, a 56 percent increase over the previous year in Illinois.

This has become a serious problem in our state, and it's time we do something about it.

Fortunately, pharmaceutical companies have developed a new formulation that deters abuse of these highly addictive drugs. The development of ADP, or abuse deterrent properties, is a huge step forward in helping combat the rapidly growing prescription drug abuse problem our country currently faces. ADP makes it so opioid pills are resistant to crushing, cutting or melting, methods most commonly used for a more rapid effect depending on their tolerance level.

While this won't combat abuse entirely, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

There is a bill in the Illinois General Assembly — House Bill 2743 — that seeks to increase access to ADP prescription opioids by ensuring access for patients and their prescribing providers. We need to urge our state legislators to support this lifesaving bill.

The Food and Drug Administration recently announced ADP technology as a priority in an effort to fight prescription drug abuse. Along with that, a strong coalition of supporters across Illinois has come together to ensure this legislation passes.

ADP is proven to work. A recent study showed that abuse of one commonly prescribed medication dropped 82 percent after its reformulation. Other studies are showing similar decline in abuse. The Journal of Pain reported a 66 percent decline of abuse by snorting, smoking or injecting these opioids.

I started the organization Live4Lali following my brother's death to be a voice in the community and to help prevent overdoses. It is our mission to provide individuals, families, communities and organizations with awareness of the growing drug abuse epidemic and the importance of addressing mental health issues with compassion and concern to reduce the overwhelming stigma perpetuating this national problem.

Along with that, we strongly support statewide and national efforts to reduce drug abuse and be a resource for individuals and families struggling with drug and mental health issues. ADP is certainly something we back as an organization and we encourage our lawmakers to do the same.

It is hard to believe that there is anyone out there who doesn't see ADP as a step in the right direction in combating drug abuse in Illinois. Prescription painkillers are necessary for many people across the country.

For some, however, they are a ticking time bomb. If ADP had been around in 2008, my brother might still be with us. We must pass legislation that increases access to these potentially lifesaving drugs.

Chelsea A. Laliberte is the executive director and co-founder of Live4Lali Inc.