Tag Archives: prescription drug monitoring program

Calif. medical board under fire amid rising OD deaths

computerpillsParents whose children died of drug overdoses urged California’s medical board on Monday to utilize a tracking database of prescriptions to help identify doctors who over-prescribe powerful narcotics amid the state’s growing addiction epidemic. The testimony came from members of advocacy organizations, including the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse, and other individuals and experts who said the board’s failure to investigate complaints of physician misconduct in a timely manner has often had deadly results.

By the time parents were allowed to start their testimony, several of the board’s members had wandered out of the hearing, leaving only five active listeners (the board currently has 15 members.) When one of the parent speakers – a registered nurse whose son was addicted to pills and died of a heroin overdose last year – asked when the full board would be available, one of the members replied “soon” and added that everyone’s testimony would be transcribed.

Not very reassuring.

Among the powerful speakers were Bradley DeHaven, whose son was previously addicted to OxyContin; April Rovero, the founder of NCAPDA after her son died of a prescription drug overdose; and Jodi Barber, producer of the short film Overtaken who lost her son to an Opana overdose.

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Calif. AG calls for boost to prescription database: LAT

computerpillsCalifornia’s attorney general is pushing lawmakers to fund an effort to identify physicians who recklessly prescribe addictive medications.

Kamala Harris told the Los Angeles Times she wants to use a state database of prescriptions, known as CURES, to identify doctors who abuse their prescribing powers.

Harris has called for upgrading the cash-strapped database – which is now used mostly to identify “doctor-shopping” addicts – and establishing two criminal enforcement teams to investigate suspicious patterns of prescribing, the Times said. CURES would automatically alert authorities to prescribing that appears “questionable or excessive,” helping to identify doctors who write large numbers of prescriptions for narcotic painkillers or drug combinations popular among addicts.

The struggling CURES system currently has a budget of just $400,000 a year and is overseen by a single employee in the attorney general’s office, according to the Times.

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In Fla., pill mill crackdown falling short: Miami Herald

medcabinetFlorida’s battle against its massive prescription drug epidemic has been ongoing for years, with state officials taking a number of measures to combat abuse. But despite these efforts, it seems the fight is far from over, according to this recent article in the Miami Herald. Although many of the so-called “pill mills” seem to have shifted to the more permissive regulatory environment in nearby Georgia, some operators have switched to weight-loss or anti-aging clinics, where they continue to sell profitable pharmaceuticals right on the premises, the article notes.

Florida’s much-anticipated prescription drug monitoring database had been touted as a great triumph in the state’s fight. But a recent investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found that the vast majority of medical practitioners don’t even use the system, because they are not required by law to check it to see where and when their patients filled previous prescriptions, the type and quantity of drugs they got and who prescribed them.

Since the system was launched last September, more than 48 million prescriptions have been written in Florida for controlled substances — about 2.5 for every man, woman and child in the state — but prescribers checked the database before writing just 2% of them, the article says.

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Tenn. tops charts for pill sales, overdose deaths

Tennessee is ranked in the top one percent of states that sell prescription painkillers, and is also in the nation’s top ten for overdose deaths, according to this article. Since the state’s establishment of a prescription drug monitoring database in 2004, 1,059 Tennesseans died of prescription drug overdoses, the article says. Unintentional drug overdose is now the leading cause of death in Tennessee, exceeding death rates for motor vehicle crashes, homicides and suicides.

Meanwhile, doctors in Tennessee prescribed 17 retail pain prescriptions per capita in 2009, versus the national average of 12, the article notes. In fact, one of the state’s doctors wrote more than five million prescriptions for opiates like oxycodone among 3,600 patients in 2011.

Read more about prescription drug addiction in Tennessee here.

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Indiana, Ohio drug tracking databases show promise

Nearly every state – all but Missouri – have databases that track commonly abused prescription drugs, but many are technologically deficient, and their usefulness varies. But two states, Indiana and Ohio, have launched pilot programs that may change the face of prescription drug monitoring, according to this article.

In Indiana, officials are using a health system with electronic health records in place, so whenever a patient is admitted to, discharged or transferred from the emergency room, that order will trigger the Indiana Scheduled Prescription Electronic Collection and Tracking program (INSPECT) to upload information about the patient’s drug history to the records system, the article says.

And in Ohio, patients are given a numeric score using a software program that indicates their risk of abuse. If the score is over a certain threshold, the provider receives an alert, the article says.

Separately, local health officials in southern Ohio adopted a high-tech fingerprint scanning system earlier this year in a bid to curb prescription drug abuse. Under that one-year pilot program, patients must submit to a fingerprint scan to see a doctor at Holzer Heath System, which operates two hospitals in the region. They must also use fingerprint IDs to get their prescriptions filled at certain pharmacies.

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Texas lawmakers hear testimony on growing pill abuse problem

Texas medical professionals and law enforcement officials are seeking to address the state’s prescription drug addiction problem, telling lawmakers at a Senate hearing that agencies need to collaborate in order to more effectively identify pharmacies and doctors involved in the usage of prescription drugs outside of medically sanctioned purposes, according to this article.

Deaths from accidental overdoses increased in Texas by more than 150 percent from 1999 to 2007, largely due to the rising tide of opiate prescriptions, the article says.

In 2011, the Texas legislature made doctor shopping a felony, and several months ago, the Texas Department of Public Safety launched an online database of prescription drug data, the article notes.

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Few Fla. doctors using prescription monitoring system: report

Florida has been fighting its statewide prescription drug epidemic with a number of measures, including a prescription drug monitoring database. But a recent investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found that the vast majority of medical practitioners don’t even use the system, because they are not required by law to check it to see where and when their patients filled previous prescriptions, the type and quantity of drugs they got and who prescribed them.

Since the system was launched last September, more than 48 million prescriptions have been written in Florida for controlled substances — about 2.5 for every man, woman and child in the state — but prescribers checked the database before writing just 2% of them, the article says.

Meanwhile, TCPalm reports that Florida’s crackdown on painkiller abuse has had an unintended effect: some patients with documented cases of chronic pain say they are being turned away from pharmacies because of the medication they are seeking, according to this article.

The state also continues to grapple with the fallout of prescription drug addiction in its hospital delivery rooms, with a dramatic spike in children born dependant on opioids, a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome, this article reports.

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Prescription drug database curbing abuse in B.C.: study

In Canada, where prescription drug addiction is rampant, a real-time prescription drug monitoring database in the province of British Columbia appears to be having a positive impact on abuse there, according to a new study published in the journal of the Canadian Medical Association. The implementation of a centralized prescription network was associated with a “dramatic” reduction in inappropriate prescriptions for opioids and benzodiazepines, the authors of the study said. Inappropriate opioid prescriptions to people on social assistance dropped from 3.2 percent to 2.1 percent after the new system, called PharmaNet, was introduced in 1995. Meanwhile, suspicious prescriptions of benzodiazepines, which exacerbate the side effects of opioids, fell from 1.2 percent to 0.71 percent.

Canadians are the second-largest consumers of prescription narcotics and other controlled substances per capita in the world, according to the International Narcotics Control Board. Yet the country lacks a national prescription drug tracking system, making it difficult to monitor cases of addiction and related deaths.

This recent editorial in the New York Times argues that doctors have contributed to the growing epidemic of overdose deaths and addiction by overprescribing opioids, mostly due to a desire to treat pain more compassionately.

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In Calif., rise in young painkiller abusers leads to more heroin overdoses

Today, Oxy Watchdog founder Erin Marie Daly has a report produced with the California Report, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, on the rising prescription drug epidemic in California. While few hard statistics are available on the number of people moving from prescription drugs to cheaper heroin in the state, interviews with drug treatment experts and public health officials suggest a marked increase in heroin use that is accompanying the steady and dramatic rise in prescription opioid abuse among young people, the article says.

The report includes two radio stories produced with KQED, San Francisco Bay Area’s National Public Radio station, as well as an audio slideshow.

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Doctors struggle to balance pain treatment with painkiller abuse

Authorities in some areas where prescription drug addiction is rife have recently been cracking down on unscrupulous doctors who inappropriately prescribe painkillers. But there are other doctors who are struggling in a different way: they are being faced with the tough task of walking the line between treating pain and furthering addiction. One resident in the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts describes her experiences here, noting that while prescribing narcotics to alleviate physical suffering is undoubtedly appropriate in some cases, “the proper use of narcotics is less clear when managing those with chronic pain syndromes who often have a long history of prescription pain medication use.” And in this recent article, the chair of the AMA Board of Trustees argues that various statutes and regulations implemented by some states to curb the epidemic “go so far as to nearly criminalize the practice of medicine.”

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