HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html 114,000 Prescriptions Put In Database
Pubdate: Thu, 11 Dec 2003
Source: Roanoke Times (VA)
Copyright: 2003 Roanoke Times
Author: Laurence Hammack


The prescription monitoring program began operation in Western Virginia in 

More than 114,000 prescriptions filled at pharmacies across Western 
Virginia have been entered into a database designed to identify drug 
abusers who con doctors into giving them painkillers.

The prescription monitoring program, which was approved as a pilot program 
by the ( Assembly last year, began 
operation in September.

Authorities hope that by tracking prescriptions for drugs such as OxyContin 
and methadone, they will be able to curb the practice of "doctor shopping," 
in which drug abusers go to multiple physicians and feign ailments in order 
to obtain their drug of choice.

Since it began Sept. 11, the database has grown to include more than 
114,000 prescriptions filled at about 300 pharmacies in a region that 
stretches from Appomattox County to the westernmost tip of the state.

The state Department of Health Professions, which is responsible for 
maintaining the database, has received just one inquiry so far, director 
Robert Nebiker said.

But as with any database, Nebiker said, the system is expected to become 
more valuable as time passes.

An advisory committee that is overseeing the system's operation met 
Wednesday in Roanoke and discussed ways to educate physicians about the system.

Although law enforcement officials can seek information from the system, 
Nebiker said that in other states that have similar programs, 80 percent to 
90 percent of the inquiries come from doctors.

A physician or dentist who wants to check if a patient is receiving drugs 
from other doctors must first get a release signed by the patient before 
seeking a prescription history report from the database. The database is 
limited to prescriptions for Schedule II drugs, or those with the highest 
potential for abuse.

Police will also be allowed to receive information, but only in cases where 
they have already begun an investigation into a particular patient or doctor.

Eighteen other states have prescription monitoring systems, and calls for 
such a program in Virginia began in 2001, when OxyContin abuse in far 
Southwest Virginia led to widespread crime, addiction and fatal overdoses.

While OxyContin abuse remains a problem, authorities have since noticed a 
growing problem with methadone, a synthetic narcotic that is used as a 
painkiller and a form of treatment for addicts of opium-based drugs.

Last year, 62 people died from methadone overdoses in the western half of 
Virginia, said Dr. William Massello of the medical examiner's office in 

The methadone that caused the overdoses appeared to have been tablets 
prescribed by physicians for pain, Massello said, and not the liquid form 
of the drug that is used by methadone clinics such as the ones that have 
generated controversy in the Roanoke Valley.
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