Prescription drug database battle rages

Federal and state drug agencies want Georgia to create a database of doctors who prescribe pain medications, pharmacists who fill prescriptions for pain medications, and patients who receive prescription pain medications.  And law enforcement agencies are employing a full-court press in the General Assembly to get what they want.  Whether they succeed against a coalition of state senators and representatives concerned about such a privacy-invasive database, remains very much up in the air as the General Assembly enters the home stretch of its 40-day session.  Hanging in the balance is the question of whether law enforcement and regulatory agencies across the state and across the nation will have ready access to Georgia citizens’ private medication records — to be analyzed, cataloged and manipulated in ways they will never know.

It isn’t that law enforcement is interested in data basing every prescription a doctor writes and which a pharmacist fills; at least not yet.  The immediate concern is with pain medication; especially those in the opiate family of drugs, such as oxycontin, included on the federal and state “controlled substances” lists.  Also included in such a large dragnet, however, are many prescription medications other than pain pills; medications such as sleep aids, behavior drugs like Ritalin, and cold medications including pseudoephedrine.

Granted, these pain medications obviously can be and are abused (as are many medications that do not appear on the federal list); and some people do obtain bogus prescriptions for them, or collect multiple prescriptions and have them filled at different pharmacies in order to disguise the large quantity of the pills they are obtaining.  However, the solution being touted by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), by the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency, and by similar law enforcement agencies across the country, is the typical one preferred by government at all levels – monitor everybody in order to catch the [relatively] few abusers.

Leaving aside for the moment the fundamental principle that what a doctor prescribes for a patient should be the concern of the doctor and his patient, and not law enforcement or government regulators, the bill pending before the Georgia General Assembly (currently, SB 418) to create a mandatory electronic database to monitor prescription drugs, sweeps far too broadly and raises serious privacy and other constitutional concerns.

This is not the first time Georgia legislators have attempted to push through such database legislation.  Last year, a similar bill (HB 614) ultimately died at the end of the session.  This year, the move for a drug database is being spearheaded by a freshman Republican state senator from Savannah – Buddy Carter.  There is also pressure being created by law enforcement from other states, such as Tennessee, which complain that Georgia’s lack of a drug monitoring system causes a spill-over problem in their states.  And, of course, there is the universal incentive for legislation such as the drug database system – federal dollars.  At least two federal grant programs are available to be accessed by states that have implemented mandatory prescription drug monitoring programs.  Already, this incentive has resulted in nearly 40 states implementing some form of approved drug database system; including all states bordering Georgia.

What has thus far prevented Georgia from jumping on this prescription drug database runaway freight train, has been a group of legislators less worried about federal grant monies and more concerned about patient privacy and burgeoning government databases.  These legislators, led by Republican Sen. Preston Smith from Rome, also apparently understand that the problems cited in support of SB 418, can be solved by far less intrusive measures than by subjecting all Georgians to having their most private medical records collected and analyzed by government agents and regulators, in ways and places over which neither the patient nor the doctor has any knowledge or control.  Let’s hope they succeed in stopping this defective and unnecessary legislation.

39 comments Add your comment

Peadawg

March 22nd, 2010
7:07 am

“Federal and state drug agencies want Georgia to create a database of doctors who prescribe pain medications, pharmacists who fill prescriptions for pain medications, and patients who receive prescription pain medications.”

It’s a good idea if done and used correctly. After working in a pharmacy for 4 years, I’d be for it.

Liking Barr more every day.

March 22nd, 2010
8:04 am

I’m FOR letting the government have the 411 of an Rx Q from A-to-Z! A lineup of the prescription drug data base info would have stopped House from abusing all those Vicodins and turning him into such an irascible old man. He’s mean to his patients, and unfair to his staff and everything.

The demokrauts were successful last night. It’s okay, the Georgia Assembly is going to give Georgia voters a “get out of the Bill free” card. We won’t have to participate. Don’t you love it?

Bacon

March 22nd, 2010
8:36 am

Can you elaborate on these “far less intrusive measures” to solve the problem? I find it odd that the article would mention the idea without citing at least one example. Wouldn’t your efforts be better spent arguing in favor of a good solution rather than bashing one you don’t like. Bring us solutions, not problems, we have enough of those.

Also, please realize that pseudoephedrine (aka Sudafed), which is used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, is sold OTC. The federal CMEA requires pharmacies to keep a log of PSE purchases, and many states have implemented an electronic logging system.

Does it make sense that an OTC drug, one that isn’t dangerous unless its cooked into something else, is monitored with more rigor than Oxycodone?

This is bull

March 22nd, 2010
9:00 am

House? Really?? WTF? He is not even real. God some of us Americans are so dumb. Lets vote it in! One more of our rights given up!!! You people are to blind to see where this is going. The next thing you know the gov’t will know when we use the bathroom. Wake up people…before its to late!!!!

StJ

March 22nd, 2010
9:01 am

“It’s a good idea if done and used correctly.”

The entire point of the article is that government cannot be trusted with this information. (Or most other information, for that matter.)

Jefferson

March 22nd, 2010
9:11 am

You can’t solve a social problem by making criminals out of the population.

Scout

March 22nd, 2010
9:39 am

We just keep letting the government get more and more intrusive in our lives don’t we? And now with “Obamacare” the above attempted Georgia legislation will soon be moot as the government will know anyway .

The “Frog in the Kettle” continues ……………..

john

March 22nd, 2010
10:31 am

If you have experienced the difficulty of having a family member become addicted to prescription opiates as my family has, you’ll know why something needs to be done. When you witness a man in the prime of his life, a medical doctor with everything going for him, suddenly brought to his knees after being prescribed oxycontin for pain relief after surgury, who loses his medical license, his drivers license and all the respect of his colleagues, friends and family, you’ll understand why. The drug is incredibly addictive, and its abuse is something that will likely affect every family in some way unless action is taken to limit prescribers.

john

March 22nd, 2010
10:33 am

When someone in your family becomes addicted, you have a different point of view. Trust me.

Seymour shaye

March 22nd, 2010
11:23 am

I too am concerned about privacy, but privacy should not be, in of itself, the end goal. For example, as a mental health professional, I am obligated to overrule my client’s confidentiality if their safety or another is at imminent risk. If my client has made a plan to hurt himself or herself or of another, and if the risk is imminent, then I am obligated to overrule their confidentiality.

Mr. Barr states, “that what a doctor prescribes for a patient should be the concern of the doctor and his patient, and not law enforcement.“ I gather than that what a doctor prescribes and what a patient receives is only a legal issue if the patient should die, as in the medical situation with Michael Jackson. Ultimately, what this indicates is that society should only object or interfere when someone should die. What a passive role, we have no role for prevention?

As a mental health professional, I am continuously frustrated by clients who “doctor shop.” Where one doctor may be their primary doctor and that doctor refuses to prescribe more opiates, knowing the dangers and risks of abuse. Doesn’t society have a role where an individual is “bent” on hurting themself, by going to numeous doctors for their treatments and keeping the prior doctors “out of the loop,” by not informing them?

Fred

March 22nd, 2010
11:32 am

There is an illegal underground drug industry that “Libertarians” want to keep legal under the guise of invasion of privacy. Some doctors that prescribe drugs and medication are nothing but dope pushers/drug dealers in white coats with medical degress hanging on their walls. It’s amazing how the law and order types go after the street hustler and drug dealers that dispense drugs on the corner, but want to minimize and protect the professional drug dealers that dispense drugs from their offices and cause as much damage to the addict as the so-called corner hustlers. In California for example, dispensing of illegal prescription drugs is a huge underground industry kept alive because the drug dealers that wear white coats and have medical degrees on their walls are called Doctors. Dung by any other name smells just as bad.

Congress

March 22nd, 2010
11:44 am

Did the United States have a drug problem in the 1800’s ??

Rebekah

March 22nd, 2010
11:57 am

Are you kidding? These drugs are CONTROLLED substances. In NC, a database for these prescriptions already exists, and in our pharmacy, we’ve been able to discover several patients who were Dr. shopping. It is incredibly easy for someone to go to several doctors and several pharmacies and get many more pills than what is appropriate. The ability for a Dr. to simply look a person up and see if they got the same or similar Rx recently from a different Dr. prevents overdose deaths and keeps illegal prescription drugs off the street. If someone can’t get multiple, illigitamate precriptions, then maybe they won’t be selling the extra pills.

arnold

March 22nd, 2010
11:58 am

No drug problem in the 1800’s simply because there were no laws against drugs. They were legal. There wasn’t a problem until religious zealots decided it was a problem. Prostitution was no problem either, until religious zealots decided it needed to be changed.

George P Burdell

March 22nd, 2010
12:35 pm

More control and rules for the law abiding 99% to “protect” the lawless 1%! If people choose to become drug addicts, more rules and regulations will not stop them. They simply change tactics. Prohibition failed with alcohol, the war on drugs failed with drugs, and the existing 22,000 gun laws mean nothing to criminals- only the law abiding. The government cannot legislate common sense and morality.

[...] Barr takes on the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act, which is currently awaiting placement on the calendar in the Senate:Federal and state drug [...]

Eric

March 22nd, 2010
1:45 pm

Any such data base is sickening to me! Big Brother–stay out of my life!

Rockerbabe

March 22nd, 2010
2:23 pm

It is none of the government’s business what meds my MD rx for me and definitely none of anyone’s business what meds I take, since I pay for these meds out-of-pocket.

This Nazi Gestapo inquiries have got to cease. Talk about government take-over! No way. My business is my business and the police need to stay out of it, unless their is a warrent issued for probable cause.

AF

March 22nd, 2010
2:44 pm

Well, if Republican Sen. Preston Smith from Rome thinks the problem “can be solved by far less intrusive measures . . .” what are they and has he proposed them? Is there a bill in the legislature now?

I am weary of these fear-mongering tactics, this big-brother-is-watching-you sort of unspecified boogey man, you-better-be-careful-or-the-bad-guys-will-take-advantage-of-you.

I don’t have anything to hide from law enforcement. If they need to know if I ever have to take oxycontin, then, fine, tell them. I would rather the doctors and pharmacists who over-prescribe are stopped and I would rather the people who are taking too much of the drug are caught and given treatment for chemical dependency, and I darn well rather that those who are getting these drugs and selling them on the drug blackmarket are caught and jailed.

Or, what does Representative Smith propose as an alternative and what action has he taken?

Dr. Jack Kevorkian

March 22nd, 2010
3:19 pm

Schedule an appt. to come see me big govt! I make you feel better!

SS

March 22nd, 2010
4:10 pm

To Peadawg, Bacon, john, Seymour shaye, Fred, Rebekah and AF: I have no doubt that each of you means well. Some folks favor safety; others favor freedom. Me, I don’t care about the dangers you and others see in drugs. I’m brave enough to accept the dangers of addiction and whatever else you warn of. I strenuously oppose governments and well-meaning do-gooders such as yourselves regulating the peaceable pursuits of other Americans. I’ll trade safety for freedom any day, though I know most Americans would happily trade freedom for safety … even Bob Barr, who voted FOR the U.S.A. Patriot Act. I wish our citizens would play as good a game as we talk. Land Of The Free? Home Of The Brave? P.S. to Fred. Why the quote marks around Libertarians?

???

March 22nd, 2010
5:03 pm

What do you mean, “House isn’t real?”

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 23rd, 2010
7:08 am

I have long favored abolition of the FDA as the most effective cure for most of our society’s problems. (Actually, aborting all future democrats would be the most effective cure, but it is hard to spot a socialist in utero.)

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 23rd, 2010
7:09 am

Correction, I should have said “repeal of the pure food and drug act” as the most effective…

This is bull

March 23rd, 2010
10:56 am

I mean it is a TV show not real life!! Ummm hello????

This is bull

March 23rd, 2010
11:02 am

If someone wants to go to every doctor in town and get pills let them. This is a free country. If people are dumb enough to do it then so be it. We waste to much time and money already trying to keep folks off of drugs. IT DOES NOT WORK. You cannot force people to stop. If it gets voted in then they will find another way to get them.

joe matarotz

March 23rd, 2010
11:49 am

I fully understand your concern over this issue, Bobo. If the big, bad government knew how many percocets you were washing down with Johnny Walker every day, they might cut off your supply. Then the spiders would start to come. Again. THose big, ugly government spiders. Creeping. Crawling. Time for a couple more percs, Bob. Make those spiders go away…

Liking Barr more every day.

March 23rd, 2010
6:58 pm

Good article, Barr. This brings up the whole Rush Limbaugh oxycontin thing. Contrast that with his vehement condemnation of the healthcare bill. (No, Rush, the taxpayers won’t pay for your Mexican Connection. Stooge.)

Irony like that can’t be invented, it has to happen in real life. Rush Limpaw is, of course, a complete and total, self actualizing, self perpetuating, and self medicating idiot of idiots.

But he’s been around so long, we’ll miss him if he disappears. So, because he’s his own (and the Right’s) worst enemy, alienating new voters every day, I’m glad he’s sticking around.

Did anyone catch how Sarah Palin weighed in with how she has a list of 17 democrats (who voted yes on the bill) and whom she wants to campaign against? She’s been real quiet lately and all of a sudden she has to pop up and threaten retaliation for our legislative process. The same way our enemies would. I love it!

This is why Obama and the democrats are going to stay in power. The American People and the GOP are two different animals.

Don’t forget to wear your guns at Starbucks, (unless that’s not your cup of tea).

But what a total dope.

Tennessee

March 23rd, 2010
10:25 pm

The problem with our program in Tennessee is that once a doctor’s office has this program in their practice, there is no control of who is searching the names. A name is all that is needed for a search; no date of birth, nothing. With this search, you will find patients prescription information from the doctor that wrote it to the pharmacy that filled it.
Sounds good right? Normally the workers are kids in the front office and usually only an unqualified medical assistant or lpn working the back with the doctors. I have witnessed many times them running names of family members, friends and enemies. When most doctors are told of the breach of patient privacy, it is swept under the rug to protect the office. The doctors never have time to look at the system themselves and rely heavily on their workers to run the program. Since this is information that the DEA already had, there is no need to have this drug data base in a doctor’s office.
This is just another excuse to have access to patient’s information.

[...] the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Bob Barr writes about the “prescription drug database battle.” Barr is a former congressman and presidential [...]

MrLiberty

March 25th, 2010
5:14 pm

Once again, the terminally ill with serious pain problems are going to suffer for america’s failed and senseless War on Drugs.

To many of you this plan seems fine. The reality is that this database will be used to harrass doctors who prescribe needed pain killers to terminally ill patients to relieve their suffering. Who are we to care if someone who is dying becomes addicted to pain medication? Who are we to decide what anyone can put into their bodies so long as they do not harm us or our property??

The DEA has already caused untold suffering among the gravely ill. As Mr. Barr will no doubt remember, it was his stand against medical marijuana that generated an outstanding add accusing him of denying an old frail woman her medicine as a result of his Puritanical ignorance of both economics and freedom.

Pot calling the kettle black BOB???

That Guy

March 28th, 2010
6:41 pm

I’m all for this. Some people might argue the whole Freedom vs. Safety issue, but if you have nothing to hide, then what does it matter that your privacy might get breached; if it’s even considered that. The govt. knows enough about you anyways. Lets implement this database in all the States. If it’s going to prevent overdosing and deaths, but more importantly, keep these drugs out of the hands of teenage kids – (mind you, an ever growing epidemic), by means of “Big-Brother”, then this is great news to my ears. To every action, there are repercussions, so for those to say “let them abuse and get addicted if they want, it’s not my problem” are clearly missing the point.

There are also many safe, trustworthy doctors out there, but the ones who over-prescribe, or is simply unaware of patients “doctor shopping”, need to get with the program. Things are ever changing, and we have been in a digital age for several decades. It’s about time they change this prehistoric medical system and actually make a difference.

citizen

March 29th, 2010
7:54 pm

1. The legislation spells out exactly how this information can be used and not used. It cannot be “analyzed, cataloged and manipulated” outside of the law. In fact law enforcement needs a subpoena to look at the data.
2. The “large dragnet” includes only Federally Scheduled drugs, 2,3,4 and 5 which are all drugs that have the potential for abuse and dependence, which is why they are singled out and classified as schedule drugs.
3. It would be interesting to know just which medications “that are not on the federal list” are abused and to say that there are “relatively few abusers” is an insult to everyone’s intelligence.
4. Does the fact that nearly 40 states already have this type of legislation not tell you something. I guess all the other states are really dumb and we are smart. Mr. Barr have you checked with any other state to see how their program is working.
5. Why have “these other legislators” and Senator Smith not put forth any “far less intrusive measures” to solve the problem.
Thought you might be interested in some facts but probably not.

m50

March 30th, 2010
12:29 am

The overzealous have already begun to run with this one.

In an effort to eradicate the minority of abusers, those with legitimate pain (which all too often is invisible in the pages of test results) will suffer the most. When a doctor is unable to produce a glossy 8×10 picture of your pain to defend his decision to treat it, he will have to let it go untreated. It won’t matter how much it hurts.

How many conditions exist that are difficult to diagnose but can cause severe pain? To take such a decision out of the hands of the treating physician can only result in unnecessary suffering for untold numbers.

This is bull

April 9th, 2010
9:41 am

Write your reps at congress.org. Say no to GA SB 418!!!

Barbara Pruitt

April 19th, 2010
3:16 pm

I am for the bill. I am a Registered Nurse in the state of Georgia. My 24 year old daughter died from a drug overdose on Feb 25th of this year. She was employed fulltime and attended school fulltime. She comes from a great family and was smart and beautiful. Had this system been in place, she could still be alive. Doctor shopping, pharmacy jumping, are both a huge problem. Over 700 people died last year from accidential overdoses. If the pharmacist had a data base, he or she could catch these multiple scripts being filled. This is not about our rights, its about saving lives. Do you really want another person to overdose because we are afraid of losing some right? What are you afraid of? We really don’t care what medications you are taking, just the narcotics.

Barbara Pruitt

April 19th, 2010
3:22 pm

OK Mr. Bull, you obviously have no children nor have you had a loved one or friend who became addicted to a narcotic. This is a serious problem. I understand that people need pain medication. There is a true need for it. Unfortunately, some will get addicted. We need a system in place to help the pharmacys recognize this. I agree that the doctor’s offices do not need access to this for the reasons explained above. But had a pharmacist contacted the doctor, something would have been done to save my daughter. Addiction is a hard thing to beat, but we cant help if we are not aware of it.

jane doe

June 3rd, 2010
11:53 pm

I lost my husband to a pill overdose and i miss him very much. We have 3 kids together who miss him more than ever. Plain and simple, the government wants full control over everything! Our president is Muslim, which to me says it all; that is if you are a christian, like myself. It hurts to know i lost my precious husband to a drug overdose, but everyone in our nation has a power of choice! No one forced those pills down his throat! I blamed myself for quite sometme after his death but when a person dies, its God that has the power to take that life, not drugs, man ect. People are going to do what they are going to do. you cant force people to conform to your way. Besides, if we allow this what will they want control over next? I guess if it gets approved, we will surely find out! DONT LET THIS HAPPEN!!! WAKE UP AMERICA!!!!
WAKE UP GEORGIA!! PLEASE!!!!

The Real Truth!!!

July 19th, 2010
2:00 pm

Let me tell you how this works for real! I live in a state where they do monitor prescription drugs and it cost me my job! I have chronic pain issues due to kidney stones which are extremely painful to the point that you would sometimes rather die than deal with the pain. I have seen multiple Doctors and Hospitals for pain management because they are so afraid of the consequences of prescribing the medication; you are forced to search for people who can help you. I don’t sit around popping pills or selling them on the street; I use them to manage my pain. My boss who’s Mother was a Doctor decided to look me up since I had to take some time off work to have a procedure done, found my prescription records online and convinced Human Resources that I was a drug addict!!! Needless to say that I lost my Job that’s how this information can come back to haunt you!