The state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program allows authorized entities to track drugs monitored by state and federal governments. The goal is to make sure a patient isn’t doctor shopping, seeking multiple opioid prescriptions from different doctors.
It also allows authorities to review data when investigating prescribers and dispensers abusing their powers. Law enforcement can have access to the data, but only with a subpoena and to support an active case.
Barron’s bill would make the program stricter be requiring authorities to review the data for “possible misuse of abuse of a monitored prescription drug,” according to the law. His bill changes the language from “may” to “shall” in various places in an effort to track down prescribers or dispensers abusing the system.
The bill then requires program authorities to educate the prescriber and dispenser on their violation. It also allows authorities to report the misconduct to law enforcement.
“To not fully use this tool as this point is negligent,” said Barron, D-Prince George’s.
Schuh and others have called for strengthening the monitoring program and allowing greater flow of information to track prescription abuse by doctors. In an opioid roundtable meeting Schuh called doctors who abuse their power the “bottom of the barrel.”
House Minority Leader Nic Kipke, R-Pasadena, is a co-sponsor on the bill.
But some medical organizations have asked the state not to increase the enforcement arm of the monitoring program and have asked to keep it as a public health tool, fearing the data may not be able to distinguish “pill mills” from other providers.
There was some concern from Del. Terri L. Hill, a Howard County physician, that the bill would have a “chilling” effect on doctors and lead them to under-prescribe.
Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Wes Adams said he understood that concern but said law enforcement would only get involved if it was an extraordinary circumstance.
“Law enforcement can only get involved when conduct goes so far beyond the standard of care,” Adams said during his testimony.
The bill is another push by state and local officials to seek out punishment for prescribers, dispensers and manufacturers. The county is currently suing several different organizations for their role in the county’s opioid crisis, which has broken overdose and death numbers over the past two years.
In his letter to the committee, Schuh also requested the bill be amended to give more local access to the drug monitoring program. Currently, the program’s data is strictly protected and only access is granted to those s prescribers, dispensers, law enforcement, the State Board of Physicians and other authorized groups.
“Local health officer access to information on prescribing patterns will allow targeted public health intervention and prevention efforts, increasing the effectiveness of our county’s global response to the epidemic,” Schuh wrote. “In addition, this access will allow our health officers to educate both patients and doctors as we continue to fight this epidemic.”