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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

States linking prescription databases, fight abuse

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Missouri Department of Public Safety has announced that 343 Missouri pharmacies are connected to a new database that will help law enforcement stop methamphetamine dealers by cutting them off from pseudoephedrine, the cold medicine that is a key ingredient in meth production.

"This new tracking system will help law enforcement curb the purchase of the necessary precursor and assist in tracking people who are cooking this illegal and very dangerous drug," said Colonel Ron Replogle, superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. "The Patrol is committed to eradicating methamphetamine laboratories from Missouri, and we will work quickly and seamlessly with other law-enforcement agencies to implement this system."

The database will allow pharmacists and law enforcement to determine at the point of sale whether a buyer has gone from store to store buying large amounts of pseudoephedrine as a way to circumvent legal limits. The system also would send an alert to law enforcement about an attempted illegal purchase.

The system will allow people who legitimately need the cold medicine to purchase it, but will block sales to people trying to build an inventory to make methamphetamine.

In November, regional training classes will be held at eight sites around the state for law enforcement officers and pharmacy personnel to instruct them on how the system works. The first session will take place Nov. 1, and the final session will be on Nov. 12. Training will take place in Springfield, West Plains, Cape Girardeau, St. Charles, Jefferson City, Kirksville, St. Joseph and Independence. Web-based training also will be available. Locally, Cooper Drug and Thayer Drug have shown interest in joining the program.

Colonel Replogle said the Highway Patrol's Division of Drug and Crime Control field officers, including all officers assigned to regional drug task forces across Missouri, will receive training on the new database.

Starting next year, dozens of states will begin knitting together databases to watch prescription drug abuse, from powerful painkillers to diet pills.

With federal money and prodding, states are being asked to sign onto an agreement allowing police, pharmacies and physicians to check suspicious prescription pill patterns from Nevada to North Carolina.

Civil liberties and privacy advocates have objected to the state databases, which would be linked with technology and standards developed by the Justice and Homeland Security departments.

Thirty-four states currently operate databases to fight the drug problem authorities say is growing more deadly than heroin. They are: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Seven states (Alaska, Florida, Kansas, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota and Wisconsin) and one U.S. territory (Guam) have enacted legislation to establish a PDMP, but are not fully operational. Delaware has legislation pending to establish a PDMP and Washington State's PDMP was operational but has been suspended due to fiscal constraints.

Nationally, there were 27,658 overdose deaths from prescription medication in 2007 - more than heroin and cocaine combined, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in July. The threat is increasing as the most addictive pain relievers including OxyContin, which can produce a euphoric feeling, become more common, the Drug Enforcement Administration said.

Penney Cowan, founder of the American Chronic Pain Association, said she understands the need for monitoring potential abuse. But she worries the databases will discourage people who legitimately need painkillers. Physicians already are spooked by the fear their legitimate prescribing may trigger interest from investigators, she said.

The databases alert physicians and pharmacies to patients who see several doctors to collect multiple prescriptions, letting them judge whether to refuse a potential abuser. Law officers say the databases allow them to document a pattern of abuse after investigations or informants point to a suspected pill dealer or dirty doctor.

A 2006 report conducted for the Justice Department said prescription drug databases cut the supply of painkillers and stimulants, reducing the probability of their abuse. The rate of painkiller abuse would have been 10 percent higher by 2003 without the databases, the report said.

The Prescription Monitoring Program Information Exchange would swap information through a central hub at Ohio's Board of Pharmacy. State databases were checked more than two million times in 2008, the Justice Department said. The databases flagged prescription activity on nearly 500,000 more potential abusers.

A proposed interstate compact will be unveiled in time for legislatures to consider it when they assemble next year, said John Mountjoy, policy and research director of the Council of State Governments, a national nonprofit based in Lexington, Ky.

The contract would preserve state-by-state differences that include control of the databases by law enforcement agencies in Texas and California, health departments in North Carolina and Alabama and pharmacy boards in more than a dozen states.

Doctors are encouraged to check the databases, but in 19 states the law says they aren't required to do so, according to the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws.

There are also differing limits on law officers' access. Some states require investigators to get a warrant or court order, while others just require an active investigation on a suspect.

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