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March 01, 2010
AG McKenna tackles “invisible epidemic”

Meets with fellow AGs about prescription drug threat

Washington, D.C. – He knew something wasn’t right when he heard that actress Brittany Murphy died from “natural causes.”

“Usually, 32 year-olds don’t die of natural causes,” Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna has told parents and teens in recent weeks. “After hearing from so many parents who’ve lost kids in prescription drug-related deaths, I suspected the worst.”

Sure enough, doctors later reported that Murphy suffered from “multiple drug intoxication” involving prescription drugs. Her death was reclassified as accidental.

McKenna says too few people know the actress died as a result of prescription drugs because the initial headline suggested natural causes. McKenna sees a connection between the deaths of young actors, including Brittany Murphy and “Dark Knight” star Health Ledger, and those of young people all across the country: seemingly healthy people cut down by a little-known epidemic.

“Most people don’t know that drugs in their medicine cabinets — painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin — now kill far more people than heroin, cocaine and meth combined,” McKenna said. “Even though this epidemic is worse than those involving crack and heroin, it’s nearly invisible to most people. That needs to change.”

McKenna has been traveling the state talking about the threat of prescription drug abuse and he’ll continue the conversation when he visits with other state AGs this week in Washington, DC. McKenna will co-moderate a panel titled “Prescription Drug Abuse, The Invisible Epidemic,” on Tuesday at the spring meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).

McKenna, who serves as NAAG’s vice-president, hopes to raise the national profile of the prescription drug threat and share information with his colleagues about what can be done about it. Ideas include prescription drug monitoring programs and drop-off sites for unused medications.

During the three-day meeting of state AGs, McKenna will also take part in discussions about community banking regulations and sex offender registration/notification laws, among other subjects. In addition, McKenna and his fellow AGs will receive briefings on various issues from federal officials, including United States Attorney General Eric Holder and Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior.

The NAAG spring meeting begins Monday at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, DC.


Kristin Alexander, AGO Media Relations Manager, (206) 464-6432
Janelle Guthrie, AGO Communications Director, (360) 586-0725


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