Pubdate: Wed, 13 Apr 2016
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2016 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Olivier Uyttebrouck, Journal Staff Writer


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Attorneys general for New Mexico and 32 other 
states have asked the federal government to require methadone clinics 
to report to prescription drug monitoring programs, which track 
patients who received prescriptions of controlled substances, 
including narcotic painkillers.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said prescribers in the 
state need to know if people enrolled in methadone maintenance 
programs are trying to get prescriptions of opioid drugs from other sources.

"Patients should not be able to go to methadone clinics and then also 
doctor shop for other drugs," James Hallinan, a spokesman for 
Balderas, said in a written statement.

"This is a part of the office's ongoing involvement in nationwide 
efforts to expand the tools that will help curtail opioid abuse in 
New Mexico, one of the worst states in the nation for abuse."

New Mexico had the nation's second-highest rate of drug overdose 
deaths in 2014, the most recent data available. Only West Virginia 
had a higher rate. Drug overdoses killed 536 New Mexicans that year.

The attorneys general made the request in a letter to Health and 
Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell urging the federal agency to 
change a long-standing rule that exempts methadone clinics from 
reporting methadone patients to the state.

New Mexico law requires prescribers to list patients who receive 
prescriptions for controlled substances on a statewide database, but 
federal law exempts methadone programs.

"We recognize that the main purpose of (the exemption) is to 
encourage patients with substance use disorders to seek treatment 
without fear of prosecution or discrimination," the AGs wrote in the letter.

But patient privacy must be balanced with "the immediate need to 
reduce the diversion, misuse and abuse of controlled prescription 
medications," the letter said.

The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond Tuesday 
to a request for comment.

Dr. Joanna Katzman, director of the University of New Mexico Pain 
Center, said the exemption for methadone clinics can create dilemmas 
for physicians treating a patient for pain or addiction.

"It really makes it difficult for all clinicians who have 
prescriptive authority when they're trying to make a clinical 
decision on a patient to not know if someone is on methadone," Katzman said.

Methadone users have a high tolerance for narcotic painkillers, she 
said. Physicians need to know if someone is taking methadone to 
properly treat the patient for pain or addiction.

"The best way we can care for addiction is to know what medications 
they are getting," she said.
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