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WVU Law Review symposium to focus on prescription drug abuse

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Prescription drug abuse will be the focus of the 2014 West Virginia Law Review Symposium, set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13 in the Marilyn E. Lugar Courtroom at West Virginia University's College of Law.

The symposium, which is free and open to the public, will feature a select group of experts examining a range of topics including policy, liability and sentencing guidelines related to prescription drug abuse in West Virginia and beyond. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is scheduled to deliver the keynote address.

"What we're trying to do is take a look at what the law is doing well and what it's not doing well so we can start a discussion about who we need to work with and what we need to do to handle it better," said Imad Matini, editor-in-chief of the West Virginia Law Review.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies prescription drug abuse as a nationwide epidemic. The CDC says one in 20 people ages 12 or older in the United States have used prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons.
  • West Virginia's Department of Health and Human Resources says deaths from prescription drug overdoses in the state rose 218 percent between 2002 and 2010, from 291 to 927.

Manchin helped introduce the Safe Prescribing Act of 2013, federal legislation that aims to reclassify drugs containing hydrocodone in an attempt to restrict access to them to combat and prevent prescription drug abuse. The bill is currently in a committee, but the Federal Drug Administration has recommended the reclassification of hydrocodone to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in October 2013.

Featured speakers at the symposium will be Michael Barnes, executive director of the Center for Lawful Access and Abuse Deterrence (CLAAD); Richard C. Ausness Jr., professor of law at the University of Kentucky; Robert McKinney, counsel to the West Virginia Adult and Juvenile Drug Courts; and Adam Allen, assistant federal public defender for the Middle District of Florida.

Matini said the overarching goal of the symposium is to shed light on how the law can have an impact on prescription drug abuse.

"Ultimately, I think the law can serve as a vehicle for change in this," he said.