States Told to Monitor Drug Prescriptions

The head of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Asa Hutchinson, is calling for all 50 states to establish programs to track prescriptions of schedule II drugs. This story appears in the April 22 - 29, 2002 issue of the American Medical News, reporting on the National Association of Attorneys General meeting. On March 22, DEA administrator, Asa Hutchinson spoke and urged the leading legal officers of each state to consider instituting monitoring programs in their home jurisdictions. Presently 18 states have already initiated some type of prescription-monitoring program.

To put their money where their federal mouth is, the U.S. Department of Justice has set aside $2 million in grant money to help states set up their own programs. This move has come about because of, what the story describes as the "epidemic" of pain medication prescriptions, especially the popular drug OxyContin.

Some MD's are very leery of this new intrusion into their prescribing habits. Dr. Clark, assistant professor of philosophy at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., voiced his concerns by saying, "Any time we sense a third party looking over the shoulders of our doctors, and especially when that third party is the long arm of governmental authority, we feel our right to confidentiality is threatened and subject to the possibility of compromise."

In an opinion from the pro-side of this issue, William Douglass, executive director of the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy states "If they do their job to verify the legitimate need for [the prescription] and do a good job of monitoring their patient's pain management, they should have no fear of repercussion. If they don't do their job and are writing prescriptions like candy, they should have fear because this program can pinpoint it."