A law recently passed in Pennsylvania by Governor Tom Corbett will give physicians in the state access to a statewide controlled substances database targeting prescription drugs which have become an epidemic in the state. This law is part of an effort to cut down on the level of abuse and misuse of prescription painkillers and anti-anxiety medications in Pennsylvania and will help prevent rising numbers of addiction.
The drug database will become an important tool for physicians to have a better idea of which patients could potentially be abusing their prescriptions. The database specifically targets patients who are "doctor shoppers" meaning that they go from one physician to another to obtain more medication than is necessary for their illness.
Doctor shoppers are most likely involved in prescription drug abuse and the database will help physicians identify this kind of problematic behavior.
Identifying and Preventing Abuse
The prescription database law was just passed in October and will become operational next year. The database will be run by the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and it will permit officials involved in the program to see who is prescribing drugs and how much they are prescribing to patients.
The program can flag certain patients who appear to be doctor shopping or are going to multiple doctors to receive more of the same drugs. Once a potential abuser is identified officials can monitor their prescriptions and notify physicians that they may be involved in the misuse of their medication.
Prescription drug abuse has affected thousands of people in Pennsylvania who have become addicted to powerful painkillers known as opioids. The new prescription drug monitoring program will help doctors and pharmacists make sure that their patients are not abusing or diverting opioids.
The Crisis of Prescription Addiction
Prescription drugs have become a growing problem in Pennsylvania especially in recent years. The state currently ranks seventh in the U.S. for prescription drug overdose deaths which increased 89 percent since 1999.
While most states already have a prescription drug database, doctors and pharmacists normally do not have access to the information which is used mainly by the state attorney general's office to track the distribution of narcotics for monthly reporting. The new system that will be set up in Pennsylvania will be accessible to doctors, pharmacists and even law enforcement.
Some groups fear that the access to this database is an invasion of privacy for patients who may avoid getting treatment if they know their information is being tracked. However, the attorney general asserts that the growing crisis of prescription drug abuse makes these measures absolutely necessary.
The state's existing program only monitored Schedule II controlled substances but the new legislation will allow physicians to check on more prescription drugs. Officials are particularly concerned about the abuse of opioids because an addiction to these drugs often leads to heroin use as well.
The new program will take effect on June 30, 2015 and will last until 2022 unless it is renewed by legislation. The database will help physicians discriminate between which patients are using their medication for legitimate pain problems and which ones are using opioids for an addiction.
The program will allow prescribers to query the database if they believe one of their patients may potentially be abusing drugs. The information found in the database can then be included in the patient's medical record if they believe certain drugs should not be prescribed to them based on what they've experienced and discovered about their behavior.
Dispensers of prescription drugs will submit information to the database and can also query the database concerning certain patients. Access to this information could be instrumental in reducing the instances of prescription drug abuse throughout Pennsylvania.