Pubdate: Wed, 08 Mar 2006
Source: Daily Iowan, The (IA Edu)
Copyright: 2006 The Daily Iowan


Abuse of prescription drugs and illegal black markets for their sale 
are harmful to individuals and society as a whole. A proposal in the 
Iowa Legislature would take up the state Board of Pharmacy's 
recommendation for a statewide prescription-drug monitoring program. 
Similar legislation died in the Iowa Senate last year; we hope the 
result will be different this time around.

The proposal would set up a computerized system that would require 
pharmacies to automatically track purchases of specific addictive 
prescription drugs; health professionals and state officials would 
make up a committee determining the drugs on the list. The data would 
include the buyers, the drugs they purchased, and the doctors who 
wrote the prescriptions. Doctors and pharmacists would be allowed to 
view the system at any time, and patients would be allowed to examine 
their own files. Twenty-two other states have enacted similar 
systems, and they are reported to have had positive results.

Prescription-drug abuse is rising across the country. The National 
Office of Drug Control Policy recently called the illegal use of 
pharmaceuticals a rapidly worsening problem. Drug abusers and those 
who illegally sell addictive prescription drugs are able to go back 
and forth among different doctors and pharmacies to obtain their 
drugs because of the lack of communication and oversight among 
doctors and/or pharmacies. The Iowa Department of Public Health 
concluded an informal survey last month that detailed more than 100 
Iowans obtaining thousands of medications in this way.

The proposed system would go a long way toward addressing these 
troubles, encouraging dialogue among doctors, patients, and 
pharmacists. This would ensure that physicians and pharmacists are 
not being duped, and doctors will be able to more accurately discern 
what prescriptions best fit their patients' needs. None among them 
should see reason to decry this arrangement.

However, critics charge that the program would create situations in 
which doctors would be less prone to prescribe a certain drug for 
fear of charges of overprescribing medications. While these concerns 
may have merit, the opposite is just as dangerous: Aggressively 
doling out prescriptions of potentially dangerous narcotics is not 
something medical professionals should do. Accountability is a 
positive, not a negative.

Revisions made from last year's bill include a prohibition against 
government officials using random searches to find patients buying 
large numbers of drugs. Instead, officials would have to show 
probable cause to examine the registry. This change would protect 
against exploitation of the system by law-enforcement officials.

Privacy rights are a fundamental value of our society and require our 
continuing respect. However, we also have an interest in ensuring 
that doctors are as well-informed and patients as well-served as 
possible; the proposed drug-tracking database strikes this balance 
well. We hope the Legislature sees clear to enact such an intelligent solution.
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