Pennsylvania Poised to Step Up Rx Monitoring

By Jennifer Matesa 12/05/11

A bill to broaden digital tracking of prescribed drugs is on the agenda this week.

Increased scrutiny is welcomed by most
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With prescription drug overdose a leading cause of death among Pennsylvania’s youth—exceeding street drug ODs—a state House panel is slated this week to discuss a bill that would broaden the digital monitoring of prescribed scheduled drugs in the state. Pennsylvania has operated a prescription drug monitoring program since 2002, and it produces results: last year, for example, it helped cops break up a $1 million prescription drug ring in an investigation called “Operation Fishtown Scripts.” Currently the state monitors only Schedule II drugs, like OxyContin, morphine and fentanyl, and only law enforcement has access to the information. The bill proposes to expand the prescription-monitoring database to Schedules III through V—and to make the data available to doctors and pharmacists. Some doctors think this could help cut down on doctor-shopping and help physicians identify patients who need drug treatment. The state medical society supports the bill but advocates a balance between law-enforcement and practitioner oversight on the one hand, and the need to preserve genuine patients’ access to pain meds on the other. Altogether 37 states have operational prescription monitoring programs, some of which also collect data.

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Jennifer Matesa is a Voice Award Fellow at the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and is the author of the blog Guinevere Gets Sober. She is the author of several books, including the non-fiction, The Recovering Body, about physical and spiritual fitness for living clean and sober. You can find Jennifer on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.