State to begin monitoring prescriptions for pain medication in 2012

Accidental prescription drug overdose deaths now outnumber those killed each year in car crashes in Washington. As states around the country grapple with the continuing epidemic of surging opiate abuse, our state has finally decided to fund a possible solution: simply track each prescription doled out.

Health care providers and pharmacies who dispense pain medications like oxycodone and hydrocodone will, starting Jan. 1, 2012, input each prescription into a secure database. As it grows, it will begin to reveal each patients’ use — and potential misuse of  the drugs, which can be so effective for pain but also addictive.

The law behind the database was passed in 2007 but its implementation wasn’t funded until now.

The providers can use the information to identify such misuse and recommend chemical dependency treatment, according to the state’s Department of Health. Another feature of the database is the ability to identify dangerous drug interactions.

“Having a patient’s prescription history gives prescribers a more complete view of patient care when they prescribe or dispense controlled substances,” Washington State Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said in a press release. “This new service is another tool for patient care and safety.”

I suppose, like any policy tool, there are pitfalls to its effectiveness. People addicted to opiates might attempt to have someone else get them the drugs, or they could attempt to use fake identification.

But ultimately, it could significantly help identify abusers of prescription drugs and has been successful elsewhere.

I’m curious if anyone will find it an intrusion of people’s privacy. The policy is a similar to a federal database that tracks customer’s purchases of pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient in home-cooked meth. But I’ve not heard much in the way of complaints about that database.

How do you, dear readers, believe it could change the prescription abuse landscape? And do you think it too intrusive?

The law behind the database permits heath care providers, patients, law enforcement to view prescription records. For more information from the state’s Department of Health on the program and the law, click here.

15 thoughts on “State to begin monitoring prescriptions for pain medication in 2012

  1. Where are the drug treatment programs they’re going to send people too? They are getting closed down at an alarming rate.

  2. As it happens, this is a timely subject and I have a few ideas to share in the next day or two.

    The crime of ‘drug abuse’ is the fact it leaves the pain riddled patient living with pain 24/7 – not sleeping beyond brief moments of exhaustion. Doctors are afraid to prescribe worried the patient will become addicted – the patient is afraid to take anything to alleviate the pain for fear of becoming a ‘drug addict’.

    Who is abusing? The drug addicts? The patient? Get real, people!

  3. Just another example of “The State” keeping us safe from ourselves. I all ready sold my soul to Social Security for my Medicare and Medicaid.
    It is hard enough to keep some form of dignity laying awake at night groaning and moaning in pain and having a caregiver help shower me. Now I have to be put on another “List” to be watched over. If they’re so worried about me why do they keep cutting my caregiver hours? Why did they cut my dental? You don’t have to be put on a list to buy cigarettes or alcohol but look at all the trouble they cause. THIS is MY business! NOBODY elses! and wheres this money coming from?

  4. The problem with the federal database on pseudoephedrine is that it caused retailers, INCLUDING pharmacies, to stop carrying it entirely.

    Try being in a remote area, with a sudden onset of congestion that you know MUST be treated with pseudoephedrine or it WILL become an inner ear infection, and find out that the pharmacy at the village clinic does NOT have it because they are not on the federal database. The nearest pharmacy that would have it is 200 miles away.

    The stupid thing is that they CAN sell you painkillers if the doctor writes the prescription, but not pseudoephedrine. Not even with a prescription.

    That’s our government for you. Even a small village clinic pharmacy has prescription painkillers that ARE addictive, but not an OTC cold medication that could be manufactured into something addictive.

  5. I don’t have much of a problem with this, other than the fact that it makes more paperwork for my doc. I have been on pain meds for nerve damage, and I’d be ready for the mental ward without them. I hate having to take the damned things. I’ve been taking them long enough now, that I’m sure it would be bad coming off of them, which I’ve done before, just to see whether I could or not. I didn’t need to go to treatment to do it though. Most treatment centers are glorified 12 step meetings. As long as this doesn’t keep me from getting the medication that gives me at least a little quality of life, I’m all for it, if it keeps some of these drugs off the streets. You’ve got my email address Josh, if you have any questions. We’ve talked about some other public issues in the past. I have a lot of respect for you, and what you do. Thanks

  6. When my son was released from a Philadelphia hospital after he broke his neck, local drug stores wouldn’t fill a prescription unless he came back the next day. He had a flight out that night. I suspect this will become our experience here too.

  7. What ever became of Dr/Patient confidentiality??…I would never want the state sticking their nose into MY medical files…Wake up people, todays letter is ‘K’ and it’s rapidly replacing the ‘C’ in Amerika!!!

  8. As long as people believe the Goverment’s job is to take care of us, we will continue to loose what we hold most dear.

  9. I’m getting so fed up with drug addicts using prescription medications for recreational use, while those of us who need these pain relieving medications have to be so closely monitored to the point of invasion of privacy. I have a chronic and severe pain syndrome requiring the need for pain relieving meds. It’s humiliating enough to try to urinate into a small cup while hanging onto a cane and with a male nurse waiting outside the restroom door to make sure no hanky-panky is going on on my side of the door. I take my meds as prescribed, but still mmust sign a pain contract, insuring the clinic that I will continue to take meds as directed. I’m required by law to see my physician once every three months to stay within the law whether I’m wracked with pain that day. My doctor has to change my meds when the pharmacies face shortages because of pharmacy robberies of pain meds nation-wide. Why isn’t the state government going after welfare recipients regarding drug tests and tracking purchases of cigarettes and alcohol all at the expense of the taxpayers? It seems the law-abiding citizens who have worked hard all their lives are getting the shaft while those who have made welfare a generational lifestyle are given a break? Another aspect of big government intrusion directed at the wrong people. People with disabilities or suffer from cancer have enough grief on their plate without the additional meddling of big government. We’re already have suffered through cuts in the budget regarding how many hours our care-givers can help us with the things we cannot do. I have a theory; those who obey the law are easy marks to go after because we will tell the truth and obey the law, but because it is more difficult to go after those who abuse drugs and punish them for squandering the taxpayers dollars, they will not institute a system requiring welfare recipients substance abuse testing because it would violate their right to privacy. What about my privacy? What about government intrusion in my life? What about my health records floating out there on the internet (under the guise of making sure there isn’t any drug interaction issues)? If welfare recipients have the time for recreation drug taking, they have time to get a job and get the government off my sore back. I didn’t ask to become disabled, but I demand to be treated with dignity despite the fact I have very little dignity left. Just one more way to be treated like a criminal when I busy grieving for the former self, a once healthy and vibrant dance instructor, now reduced to walking with a cane. Go after the true targets of the drug problem and leave us who are suffering from chronic and severe pain syndromes alone. We’ve got enough pain without the government being an additional pain in our posteriors.

  10. “The only people tracked here are medical patients and their doctors. The druggies and drug dealers remain in a dark, untracked place of anonymity.

    If doctors are leery of writing scripts for pain medications for their patients – what will happen to those patients forced to endure unrelenting pain?

    Yes, Josh – I think this is an invasion of people’s privacy.”

    Read more:

  11. Just talking about this the other day . We know from the big headlines say with Michael Jackson , Elvis, etc that some doctors will prescibe anything . My wife who worked in a doctors office many years ago told me about the time she was taking the insuraqnce information from a patient , and the patient gave her the wrong card by mistake . Turned out she had five different subscriptions for basically the same type of medication from five different doctors “under different names I believe ” . People will learn to scam any system , most likely even this attemt by the legislature. I do believe their is much abuse going on , and this is an attempt to address it . We have rates of drug addictions that have sky rocketed lately among young people , and I think this is also because of that .

    Excellent points , and understand the privacy issues . But there is a problem of drugs being prescribed and not being ussed for the intended use .

  12. Mick – What stats do you quote in the problem of “drugs being prescribed and not being used for the intended purpose?” Do you honestly believe that a patient in pain will not used the prescribed medications?

    What are the proofs this is happening and to what percent?

    Because – as I see it – the real life patient is the only one who will be impacted in this latest invasion of privacy by the state.

    Why is that okay with you?

  13. Sharon it seems your unaware of the drug trade. Their is a big black market in prescription drugs being sold. As I said some doctors will prescribe medication for people who are having a bad week , some will not , many people will just find a doctor who will . For instance a person can get oxycoting quite cheap if they have medical insurance , the street value is unbelievably high . You are aware of that problem ?many adults and Kids use Heroin because it is cheaper then the black market price of oxycotin for instance . Even thought the presribtion oxy got them hooked .

    if you chose to re read my post , you will find that I identified a problem , and was not sure if this was the correct answer. Is that Ok with me ? Privacy is a Constitutional Right , but we do have records of our traffic to other violations of law that are easily identified when we apply for a job . If a doctor is given a registry that tells him that you already had gobne to a doctor a week before and gotten medication such as oxycotin , and is trying to get another prescription for the same thing from another doctor, perhaps this is the lesser of two evils . I am not sure . why are you Okay with people abusing drugs ?

    First you need to investigate the drug problem and prescription drugs . Then you need to realize that these legislators are not just trying to do this to be mean , they may be wrong , but because you are uneducated of the drug problem shows you have not at least looked at all the sides of the issue.

    We make people take off their shoes at airports, go to the bathroom in a jar before they are hired, look at their records of arrests , we do this to all abiding citizens . I ternd to be quite conservative , and giving up freedom for security is something that is a slippery slope .

    Butas I said , kids are being effected in epidemic rates with prescribed narcotic drugs sold on the black market , why is that Ok with you ?

    I believe it is not . But you should at least be aware of it and the reasoning of the law.

  14. This an article from CNN that may perhaps help you Sharon understand the problem . Not agreeing with giving up the privacy for prescribtions I understand , its why when we stand in a line at a Pharmacy we have to stand back before we get our prescriptions filled , it is privare and embarrasing to some people .

    See the chart below, as reported by CNN’s Poppy Harlow and

    Oxycontin – could get $50 to $80 on the street, vs. $6 when sold legally
    Oxycodone – could get $12 to $40 on the street, vs. $6 when sold legally
    Hydrocodone – could get $5 to $20 on the street vs. $1.50 when sold legally
    Percocet pill – could get $10 to $15 on the street vs. $6 when sold legally
    Vicodin – could get $5 to $25 on the street vs. $1.50 when sold legally

  15. Mick – you misunderstand.

    Are you saying that
    “some doctors will prescribe medication for people who are having a bad week…”
    in enough numbers to prescribe pain pills for anyone asking for them?

    Or are you saying that medical patients living with pain will sell their pain medications on the street to make money and live with the pain?

    I understand drug trafficking is a problem – its a crime. So is drunk driving illegal. So are people driving without visible signs of drunkenness pulled over to be checked for DUI?
    Drug testing isn’t an issue for me – it never was. It is NOT a privacy issue as you seem to think it is. If you want the job – get tested.

    Direct patient/doctor prescriptions on a state database is an invasion of privacy. I doubt that it will stem the drug trade as you seem to think and I’m sorry you can’t see the difference.

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