Prescription drugs and overdoses have been getting a lot of attention in the media lately, and for good reason. A little bit of work ahead of time can make life a lot easier by reducing the number of people abusing prescription drugs. One tactic that is getting a lot of attention is one that requires doctors to verify the patient’s medical history before giving them any new narcotic prescriptions.
Initially the program, which was launched in Kentucky, got a lot of criticism from doctors who argued that too much time was wasted with this process. But this added time on behalf of medical professionals has good consequences for reducing drug-related abuse and death.
The program was geared towards helping to cut down on the number of abusers known as “doctor shoppers” who hop around to different physicians in the hopes of getting more drugs. Initially, doctors believed that they didn’t need an online database to help them avoid giving prescriptions to this kind of abusers, but apparently the use of the program has really helped.
In the first year of the mandatory checks, the volume of drugs being prescribed by doctors dropped significantly. Many of the major prescriptions popular among abusers, like Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and Alprazolam all experienced big decreases across the state.
The program seemed to help with the exact problem it was designed to combat: specific “doctor shoppers” who pick up multiple prescriptions from numerous physicians in the hopes of spurring on an addiction.
With an electronic record of who has requested and received certain types of medications, doctors have been able to avoid giving out multiple scripts for patients who don’t really need it.
There’s good news out there for the patients who do need it, too. Some patients truly in need of pain or other medication were previously looked at with a watchful eye. Doctors were trained to be suspicious of any patient appearing to need pain medication or suggesting symptoms that would warrant such medication. Now, a patient’s medical history with no flags ultimately makes it easier for legitimate individuals to get the help that they need.
After the success of the program in Kentucky, Oklahoma lawmakers are now considering their own version. The state already has one of the nation’s highest rates of overdose deaths and prescription abuse. Two years ago, half of Oklahomans who died in drug overdose incidents were taking pills prescribed by doctors.
Mandatory check requirements certainly are not without critics. Oklahoma lobbyists and doctors have been pushing off such a program for a few years. They argue that the program would be expensive and time-consuming, ultimately causing problems for all patients by generating delays and causing too much red tape.
That opposition isn’t holding too much promise, however, since the Governor is now considering at least making some of the most heavily-abused narcotics are listed in a database. Even small measures could help to reduce the epidemic of prescription drug abuse.
Past research backs up the idea that relying on an inner sense of whether or not someone is a doctor shopper is not sufficient. Many physicians give prescriptions to the people who truly don’t need them.
Kentucky may see a decrease in overdose deaths for the first time in a while, thanks to the new program.
The online database isn’t the only component of the program, either. There are stronger efforts to wipe out “pill-mill” clinics that were not owned by doctors, and had a reputation for passing out prescriptions when not needed. In addition, more training and educational opportunities were given to physicians about pain management and addiction. The bottom line seems to be that the mandatory prescription checks were the most effective at cutting out pain pill abusers.
Kentucky is not alone, as many other states are looking into ways to combat the rising prescription drug abuse problem effectively. Tennessee mandated that doctors verify the prescription drug database back in 2013, along with New York. Ohio has been requiring narcotic prescription history from physicians since 2010.
This appears to be one of the most effective ways to root out potential abusers while still allowing legitimate patients to get access to the medications they need. By limiting how many abusers can visit one doctor, and then another, to rack up multiple prescriptions of the same medicine, one of the biggest epidemics in the country is finally being addressed.
Prescription drug abuse and overdose is a nationwide problem that is finally achieving some resolution. We are seeing plans at the state level to target abusers and make it difficult for them to get access to medications. Oklahoma and other states are expected to follow the lead Kentucky has taken by making doctors check prescription history more often in order to reduce abuse.
This is good news for everybody.