States Crack Down on Prescription Drug Doctor Shopping
May 31, 2012
Forty-three states now have databases to keep track of when people get prescriptions for powerful pain relievers. Doctors and pharmacists use these databases to ensure that people are not getting pills at multiple locations. For some doctors, running a "PMP"—shorthand for a Prescription Monitoring Program report—has become as normal a part of seeing new patients as measuring blood pressure.Samuel Hughes Melton, the president of a Virginia health clinic, used a PMPreport to discover that a long-time patient had picked up an opiate from another doctor, and had also obtained a prescription for benzodiazepine. The two can be deadly if combined. "I was able to confront him in the exam room," Melton said. "I was able to use that information and nudge him into treatment for substance abuse."
While prescription monitoring programs have proven helpful, they are not without controversy. Issues like making sure that people who genuinely need pain medication get it, determining whether or not doctors should be required to check the database or just use their discretion, and addressing patient privacy concerns remain. "Before we can ever address the prescription-drug problem...one of the things we have to do is to make sure we have full use of the tools we have," explains Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.
Learn More: Prescription for Disaster: How Teens Abuse Medicine
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