True or false: • Prescription-drug abuse accounts for 30 percent of all drug abuse in the United States.
• There were 584 prescription-drug overdose deaths in Georgia in 2009, according to records from the GBI medical examiner’s office. By comparison, there were 86 deaths from illegal-drug overdoses.
• The estimated cost to public and private medical insurers of diversion and abuse of controlled prescription drugs is $72.5 billion a year.
• The controlled-drug supply normally provided to Georgia citizens for legitimate medical problems is being depleted by abusers, causing some pharmacies to run out of these drugs and being unable to fill prescriptions for their regular, legitimate-need patients — including terminally ill patients.
• “Pill mills,” rogue doctors or clinics that prescribe or dispense painkillers inappropriately or for non-medical purposes to addicts and drug dealers, have proliferated in Georgia.
• Georgia is one of the last states to implement a prescription-drug monitoring program.
If you answered true to all of these questions, you’re correct.
As a practicing pharmacist and a state legislator, I have a unique perspective of prescription-drug abuse in our state. In my practice, I see firsthand not only the need and benefit of controlled prescription drugs, but also the abuse of these important medications.
That’s why I am happy to report that, after years in the making, the Georgia Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is up and running. The program records and monitors the dispensing of controlled prescription drugs in our state.
After years of trying to pass legislation creating a PDMP in our state, we finally passed Senate Bill 36, which establishes the GPDMP that I sponsored in 2011.
The program works like this: Each week, pharmacies are required to transmit information about all controlled prescriptions they have dispensed to a secure database that is accessible only by pharmacists and doctors. Included in the information submitted to the database are the patient’s name, address and date of birth, drug dispensed, quantity dispensed, date dispensed and the prescribing physician.
Once the submitted information is formatted onto the database, physicians and pharmacists are allowed to access only the information for their own patients. Physicians and pharmacists are given their own secure passwords and are not allowed to share them with anyone else, including office personnel.
Great efforts were taken with SB 36 to make certain that patient information is protected in the GPDMP. Aside from following all HIPPA regulations, fines and even imprisonment are called for in cases in which an individual negligently uses, releases or discloses information from the database.
Using the information for commercial advantage, personal gain or malicious harm also constitutes a felony and is punishable by a fine not to exceed $250,000, by imprisonment for not more than 10 years, or by both.
In the few weeks that the GPDMP has been up and running, huge dividends already have been seen. Patients seeing multiple doctors and using multiple pharmacies have been identified by doctors and pharmacists, and appropriate action has been taken.
Carter can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109. Connect with him online at facebook.com/buddycarterga or on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.