States Consider Forcing Docs to Use Drug Databases

By McCarton Ackerman 01/23/12

New York and Tennessee may introduce far tougher monitoring of prescribing physicians.

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Both Tennessee and New York have legislation pending which would require physicians to access drug monitoring databases whenever they write prescriptions for controlled substances. In Tennessee, State Senator Ken Yager and Governor Bill Haslam proposed bills to require physicians to check the database for every patient before prescribing a controlled substance; prescribers and dispensers would have to report information to the database within 24 hours, far more promptly than the monthly reports most states currently require. In New York, the bill drafted by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman would require the Department of Health to establish and maintain a database capable of real-time information capture. “That’s a highly controversial move. But it tells me that the seriousness of the prescription drug problem in some states is reaching a level of people feeling like ‘We have to do something and this is the approach we are taking,” says Sherry Green, executive director of the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws. Of the 80,000 professionals licensed to prescribe meds in New York, only 47,000 have opened state database accounts and just 2,200 have used them. Scrips for narcotic painkillers in New York increased from 16.6 million in 2007 to 22.5 million in 2010. The National Institutes of Health reports that 20 million Americans over age 12 have misused prescription drugs.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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