There has been some recent controversy regarding patient databases that work to prevent and curb prescription drug abuse. One of the latest databases is located in Minnesota. Pharmacies across the state are required to enter patient and doctor information for every prescription they fill. This central database can be accessed by doctors and pharmacists to see if a patient has had the prescription filled elsewhere or through a different doctor. It sounds like a good idea, and the offenders are easy to spot. These are the people that visit two doctors or hospitals in the same day, or go from doctor to doctor to have their prescriptions refilled.
Prescription Painkiller Abuse
Prescription painkiller abuse affects millions of people, and in Minnesota it is an estimated 117,000 adults per year. Prescription abusers visit numerous doctors in order to get several prescriptions. These addicts have perfected the technique of “doctor shopping” like this in order to get enough pills to satisfy their addiction.
Against the Database
Some people, however, are in opposition to the streamlined database because they believe doctors will begin to practice in fear of being investigated. However, that’s not what the database is designed for, and the government is even prohibited from using it to check up on doctors. Doctors should appreciate this new system as a way to help them do their job better. These doctors should be the ones to spot an addiction and step in and get help for the person. The database should be an aid to them, not a hindrance.
Education is Necessary
The problem with the database is that there are no set rules as to what doctors or pharmacists are required to do with the information they discover. The system won’t work if it is dependent on professionals going out of their way to help all who need it. In some states where doctor participation is voluntary, only 13% of doctors statewide have actually registered with the site.
There could be more stringent regulations put on the systems. Doctors could be required to check the database before prescribing a new controlled substance, but then it causes more work and stress to their already tight schedule. Pharmacists could be required to turn patients away without filling prescriptions, but then we run into the problem of what to do with those that legitimately need the high doses of pain meds. The addicts will find another way to get their drugs if they are turned away from doctors or pharmacists – what they really need is professional help.
With regulations and proper education, this kind of database should be helpful in the effort to stop the abuse of prescription painkillers. Doctors and pharmacists need to know the ways they can help someone that has been abusing their prescriptions. With databases established in at least 34 states, our country is on its way to not only statewide, but possible a countrywide monitoring program.