HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Database To Track Drug Prescriptions Nears Fruition
Pubdate: Sat, 30 Nov 2002
Source: Bluefield Daily Telegraph (WV)
Copyright: 2002 Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Author: Associated Press
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


ROANOKE, Va. (AP) - A computer database to track drug prescriptions in 
southwestern Virginia, designed primarily to catch abusers of OxyContin, 
could be operational by early next year if the state receives a federal 
grant, officials said. Virginia has applied for a $180,000 grant from the 
Justice Department to help fund the creation and maintenance of the 
database, which was approved under a two-year pilot program by the General 
Assembly earlier this year.

The state Department of Health Professions, which will administer the 
program, said it should know by Jan. 1 if the money will made be available. 
It's expected to cost $300,000 to fund the database for the first two years.

The prescription drug monitoring program is aimed at giving police better 
ways to investigate "doctor shopping," a practice in which drug abusers 
fake illness or injury to obtain prescriptions from multiple physicians. It 
would also identify the doctors who keep abusers in supply, police said.

The problem is especially acute in southwestern Virginia, where more than 
60 people have died since 1997 from overdoses linked to an opium-based 
ingredient in the prescription painkiller OxyContin.

Only drugs listed as Schedule II by the Food and Drug Administration would 
be monitored in the database that would include 300 pharmacies from 
Appomattox to Lee counties. Schedule II drugs are those considered highly 
addictive, such as morphine, OxyContin and methadone.

The database skirts doctor-patient privacy issues by making the information 
available only to police who have already begun an investigation into a 
specific doctor or patient. Robert Nebiker, director of the Health 
Professions Department, said officials are negotiating with a software 
contractor to create the database.

"I was very surprised and actually very pleased to see how easy it would 
be," Nebiker said.

Funding not covered by the government would come from settlements paid by 
physicians convicted of overprescribing drugs, he said.

Officials will decide whether to expand the system to include the rest of 
the state after the two-year pilot program has concluded.
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