Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


Washington Health Foundation, PhRMA and AG McKenna Announce New Anti-Abuse Effort

Seattle — College students in Washington State identified misuse of prescription and over-the-counter medicines as one of the fastest growing problems on their campuses. A powerful new coalition of local, state and national organizations announced on Friday, April 9, 2010 at 12:30 p.m., an effort to address this challenge.

The Washington Health Foundation (WHF), Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturing Association (PhRMA) launched a new program today to reduce prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse among college students, creating one of the first programs in the nation to target young adults between the ages of 18 to 24.

Given the nationwide increase in prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse, WHF visited college campuses across Washington state this past year to listen to students talk about abuse and misuse. WHF invited PhRMA, the State Attorney General’s Office, and several community coalitions to collaborate and share information about the behavior changes regarding this generation.

“College students today are far more likely to find easy access to prescription drugs they can buy or simply obtain for free from other students. Students do not have the feeling that these drugs are unsafe for them or even illegal as they were obtained from a professional doctor –even if it wasn’t for them,” said Greg Vigdor, President & CEO of WHF, the largest civic and health advocacy organization in Washington State.

“Unlike other generations which restricted drug use to partying, students today are far more likely to misuse prescription drugs for reducing stress before a presentation or to keep themselves up, focused and cramming before an exam,” said Vigdor. “There is growing evidence these practices could follow this generation into the workplace after graduation.”

WHF obtained funding from a grant from the Attorney General’s Office from a consumer protection lawsuit settlement, and from PhRMA to research and develop a program that will provide college students with new online and programmatic steps that inform, educate, activate and make it easy for these young adults to get information online.

“This is the most tech savvy, most educated, most affluent, most well-traveled—and potentially the healthiest generation,” said Attorney General Rob McKenna.  “Our goal has been to build a movement among college students to create awareness, without using the typical guilt, snitching, preaching and scare tactics they dismiss. Instead, we are utilizing social networks and community advocacy resources to help them educate themselves and their friends.”

The new program will include several steps to make college students aware of the complexities of misusing and abusing prescription and over-the-counter drugs. The program will include:

  • A comprehensive college Web site written by college students offering help, links, and how to personally organize your health information, records, contacts, and personal health goals
  • Student Advisory Boards
  • Special new student orientation materials
  • Work with on-campus Health Centers
  • A program for Resident Advisors (RA’s)
  • Work with partners (Consumer Healthcare Products Association, The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America coalitions, among many others)
  • Coordination with college departments to incorporate content into their classroom curriculum

Jeff Bond, Senior Vice President, State Government Affairs, PhRMA, was in town for the launch held at the University of Washington, as were executives from several major pharmaceutical research companies interested in expanding education and outreach programs for this generation of college students.

“This is a first-of-its-kind attempt to reach college students on their terms by offering them an online, on-campus, on target approach to information.  Prescription medicines save and improve lives every day but when misused or abused, they can have devastating consequences,” said Bond. “Our hope is that young adults establish healthy behaviors in general and learn the importance of taking medications exactly as prescribed.”

While many organizations deal with targeted publics in need of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, few have dealt with college-aged young adults. Much effort currently is concentrated on elementary and high school student education programs, parental awareness, and community contacts that can identify problems.

“One of the reasons we are here in Seattle for this launch is that many of us who have been working towards proper use of prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter drugs are glad to see concentration on the college generation. We know there is a problem—and we think many of the tools we have developed will be perfect for inclusion on college campuses,” said Steve Pasierb, President and Chief Executive, The Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

To view the video WHF created on prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse among college-aged students, go to http://vimeo.com/10219281.

To access the tools and ongoing programs of the WHF college prescription drug program, go to www.whf.org.



Joe Furia, 206-724-3151
Cathy Allen, 206-443-1990
Janelle Guthrie, 360-586-0725

** Note: This news release was distributed by the Washington Health Foundation. **