State to start monitoring prescriptions

System will better track controlled substances, guard against misuse

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter



Physicians and pharmacists will soon be able to detect if a patient is “doctor shopping” to obtain numerous prescriptions to controlled substances.

Beginning in January, physicians, pharmacists and law enforcement officers will be able to access a secure statewide database that tracks prescriptions for pain medication and other controlled substances. Those who dispense the medications are required, as of Oct. 7, to submit the information to the state.

The goal is to better equip physicians and pharmacists who are prescribing potentially addictive substances. Providers will be able to identify dangerous drug interactions, address issues of misuse and recognize undermanaged pain or the need for substance abuse treatment, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

“It gives us another tool to potentially look at if we have a patient who has a prescription that we’re unsure of, we can check it out online,” said Steve Logan, director of pharmacy operations for Kaiser Permanente’s northwest region.

Implementation of the program has been a long time coming.

The legislature in 2007 passed a law requiring the Washington State Department of Health to create a prescription monitoring program. Funding to implement the program, however, was never provided.

In the last two years, the health department received four grants totaling $907,163 to implement the program. The grants will keep the program running through 2013. Health officials are working to identify additional funding sources to continue the program beyond 2013, health department spokeswoman Julie Graham said.

The law requires licensed pharmacies and practitioners who dispense controlled substances in the state or to Washington addresses to electronically report the outpatient prescription data. The program does not collect hospital inpatient data. The law pertains to all prescriptions of Schedule II, III, IV and V controlled substances, which includes certain tranquilizers, stimulants and pain relievers.

The monitoring program will collect the patient’s name, address and date of birth; the pharmacy and prescriber information; the prescription drug name and dosage; and the prescribing and dispensing dates.

Individuals will be able to request copies of their own information in the database.

While monitoring is new to Washington, it’s not a new concept. Currently, 48 states have laws authorizing monitoring programs; 36 of those states have programs up and running, including Oregon and Idaho.

Implementing the program in Washington won’t be too difficult for Kaiser Permanente. Kaiser is in the process of setting up systems to electronically transmit the data to the state of Washington, just as it does in Oregon.

For Legacy Medical Group, the new database will complement other tools providers use to prevent abuse, said Erin Wickum, office manager for Legacy’s Battle Ground clinic.

“This is something that has been long anticipated and can only be positive,” she said.

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