Most can agree that the abuse of prescription narcotics (oxycodone, oxycontin, etc.) is an epidemic in America. According to police, this type of drug abuse has now surpassed the use of methamphetamine and crack cocaine. Lawmakers in Tennessee hope to be at the forefront of combating the problem by proposing new legislation that would require prescribers and pharmacists to check the prescription drug database for potential abuse.
In an article by Matt Lakin (and posted on KnoxNews.com) titled "Checks and balances: Doctors, law enforcement spar over prescription-drug database," Tennessee Senator Ken Yager's bill addressing the prescription drug database is outlined. Senator Yager proposes that the current database be used more "effectively" by requiring pharmacists to check the database for all patients, even long established ones, before writing or filling any narcotic prescriptions. He hopes this will help deter patients from doctor-shopping for the drugs.
Tennessee's current database is only accessible by pharmacists and doctors. However, doctors and pharmacists are only required to log the prescriptions in the database. Currently, there is no law requiring the database to be checked prior to writing or filling a prescription.
According to the article the most recent statistics state that "13.7 million prescriptions" were logged last year, but only "1.2 million checks" were made of patient profiles in Tennessee.
Critics of Yager's bill are concerned about the time it will take doctors and pharmacist to check the database and the effects the bill may have on the doctor-patient relationship. Prosecutors' answer to these concerns are to allow broader access by others such as doctor's support staff, pharmacy technicians, probation and parole officers, drug court judges, etc. This broadening of access raises privacy and abuse concerns with the Tennessee Medical Association.
Yager states that it is likely that more than one bill will be introduced regarding the prescription database issue next year. His bill will only support checks made by pharmacist and doctors. He understands that a bigger burden will be placed on doctors and pharmacists, but explains something must be done to hinder those trying to obtain multiple prescriptions. Yager expects to present his bill in January, 2012.