Another strategy is to increase the number of state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs).
Currently, 43 states have authorized implementation of such programs, but only 35 are up and running. Florida's governor Rick Scott made headlines recently with his plan to slash the state's PDMP, even though Florida is generally considered as a prime area for abuse of prescription painkillers.
The REMS only deals with extended-release opioids because they are more dangerous when abused. When they are crushed and snorted, they release a high dose of narcotic immediately into the bloodstream -- a dose that was intended to be released slowly.
These include hydromorphone, oxycodone, morphine, oxymorphone, methadone, transdermal fentanyl, and transdermal buprenorphine -- affecting a total of 16 brand and generic manufacturers.
The companies will have 120 days to submit their REMS to the FDA for review. Woodcock said the final REMS will likely be completed by early 2012.
Depending on the outcome of the administration's new plan, immediate-release opioids such as hydrocodone (Vicodin) eventually could be targeted as well, Woodcock said.
She added that the agency will be monitoring the success of the REMS, and that it does have other means of accomplishing enforcement if a bill is not drafted or passed.
One person dies from a drug overdose every 19 minutes in the U.S., and more people die from prescription drugs than gunshot wounds, according to the ONDCP.
The overall rate of deaths from drugs -- including heroin, cocaine, and prescription opioids -- is approaching the number of deaths from car crashes each year. Prescription painkiller abuse now matches abuse of illegal drugs, and mortality from the prescription drugs exceeds overdose deaths from cocaine and heroin combined.