Pubdate: Sat, 14 Feb 2004
Source: Spartanburg Herald Journal (SC)
Copyright: 2004 The Spartanburg Herald-Journal
Author: Jim Davenport, Associated Press
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


COLUMBIA -- A statewide drug sales monitoring system will curb
diversion of prescription medicine to drug dealers and abusers,
advocates say.

They want a state database to collect information on prescription drug
sales ranging from morphine to cough medicine with codeine as part of
an effort to catch people shopping their ailments to multiple doctors
just to get powerful drugs.

The state has no way of knowing the extent of the problem, though.
"Without a program like this, we don't really know what's going on,"
said Wilbur Harling, with the state Bureau of Drug Control at the
Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Eighteen states have some sort of monitoring system. South Carolina
would join Kentucky, Nevada and Utah with an electronic monitoring
system, Harling said.

"Nevada's and Kentucky's are the two models," said Jim Heins,
spokesman for Purdue Pharma, the drug company that makes Oxycontin.
Prescription abuse of that pain killer have prompted calls for better
drug controls.

With the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting
system, doctors and pharmacists in Kentucky now "have a tool when they
have suspicion," Heins said.

Privacy advocates have reservations about collecting the information
to begin with.

While people do abuse prescription drugs and sell them, the plan
"looks to

me like using a howitzer to kill a fly," said John Ruoff, research
director for the advocacy South Carolina Fair Share.

The state last year arrested 400 people in cases involving
prescription drug diversion, Harling said. "It looks like we're going
to make about 500 arrests this year," he said.

DHEC began trying to find legislators to support the effort two years
ago. It was about the time that Rep. Tracy Edge, R-North Myrtle Beach,
had been approached by a prescription drug peddling neighbor and as
news was breaking of a widespread prescription Oxycontin abuse.

"I had someone approach me in my own yard trying to sell me different
forms of prescription drugs," Edge said.

It brought prescription abuse too close to home just as headlines were
filled with reports of the high-powered painkiller Oxycontin becoming
the legal drug rage two years ago.

In September, Dr. Michael Woodward, the owner of the Myrtle Beach
Comprehensive Care and Pain Management Center was sentenced to 15
years for drug conspiracy, health care fraud and money laundering
involving Oxycontin.

The lack of a monitoring system means police enforcing drug laws
mainly "catch people who are obviously selling on the street and they
tend to track it from that angle."

Edge has been quietly building support for a bill to create the
database for the past two years with DHEC's help. But those efforts
took an unusual turn this week when House Majority Leader Rick Quinn,
R-Columbia, convinced a House Ways and Means subcommittee to include
the database in its budget bill.

Edge says it's best that the bill go through public hearings so
concerns can be addressed.

There are plenty of those.

The data could be a treasure trove in the wrong hands. "It would be
very valuable to a drug company," Ruoff said.

But Quinn's version of the legislation says there's a maximum $5,000
fine for those with authorized access to the database disclosing it.

Fines "certainly out to be higher," Ruoff said. "It should be more
than the value of what you made off with."

Edge's original bill called for a $5,000 fine and five years in

Edge says limits may be needed on how long the records are

Gil Lawson, spokesman for the Kentucky health department, says his
state's system gathers 8 million records a year. None have been
destroyed since the system started operating in 1997.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin