Doctors need every tool possible to prevent prescription drug abuse, which too often leads to a heroin addiction. A proposal for a universal database that can track prescriptions so doctors can see what patients are already taking is a good tool for that job.
Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman has introduced a bill with Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota to require all states receiving some federal money to use a prescription-drug monitoring program to let doctors track prescriptions and prevent patients from doctor shopping to inappropriately acquire dangerous painkillers.
Pills of the painkiller hydrocodone.
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With four out of five heroin-addiction cases in Ohio stemming from the misuse of prescription painkillers, it’s crucial to do whatever can be done to stop the misuse of prescriptions. Tracking each patient’s prescriptions with a universally available database only makes sense.
Mr. Portman and Ms. Klobuchar’s bill would require drug dispensers to report each opioid prescription they fill within 24 hours, require doctors to consult the database before prescribing opioids, and require states to notify medical professionals when their patients show a pattern that might indicate opioid misuse. The bill also would allow states to share information from their databases and require states to use a platform that makes such sharing possible.
Nearly all states, including Ohio and Michigan, have some version of the database the Portman-Klobuchar bill would mandate. Making the platforms on which they’re running and the rules for their use compatible will certainly be helpful.
Even beyond tackling the opioid epidemic, such databases would be worthwhile in preventing dangerous drug interactions and other problems caused when doctors don’t know all the medicines their patients may already be taking. More information in a doctor’s hands is a good thing.
Yes, the bill puts another burden on busy health-care providers to record prescriptions quickly and to check the database before writing new prescriptions. And yes, it is another mandate from the federal government laid on states. Those are both real concerns, but they pale in comparison to the potential benefits to be derived from a database that can help halt burgeoning addictions.
The Senate should move quickly on this bill and the states should expedite creating databases to make this information available as soon as possible. There’s no time to waste in deploying whatever tools are necessary to fight this crisis.