Pennsylvania Gets New Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to Combat Drug Abuse
Starting June 25, pharmacists who dispense qualifying medication will be required to submit the information into a new database, also known as a prescription drug monitoring program.
Medications required for monitoring include narcotic painkillers, or opoids, such as Oxycontin and Percocet. That list is also extended to anti-anxiety medications, such as Xanax, stimulants such as Adderall, and even Robitussin. Drugs to be monitored are commonly known to be abused, and may cause dependence and addiction.
Furthermore, doctors will be able to access the database on August 25, which permits them to see if a patient has obtained potentially addictive drugs from another physician.
The program was authorized by legislators in 2014, but due to budget issues. implementation was delayed for over a year-and-half. Previously, there had been no good way for physicians to access patient information on prescriptions.
Many other states, however, have implemented similar programs – although some do not require that physician use them. The journal Health Affairs, however, just published a study which analyzed programs in 24 states from 2001-2010. It found that implementation of prescription drug monitoring program was related to a 30% decrease in opioid painkiller prescription.
While this sounds like good news, many are concerned that it may lead to more patients seeking out street heroin and other drugs when they are denied new prescriptions.
The department’s website states that education on the new system, including tutorials, will soon be available.
Statistics on Prescription Drug Abuse
Late last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report which revealed that drug overdoses from both prescription and illegal opioids were continuing to increase. Overall, there were more than 47,000 overdose deaths in the U.S., a 7% increase from 2013.
Last march, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health published a study which showed that drug overdose fatalities in Pennsylvania increased by more than 14 times between 1979-2014. The highest rates were among women, white people, and persons aged 35-44.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A, Psychology