Across our nation, doctors are prescribing pain medications at historic levels. The pills are prescribed for anything from toothaches to broken bones. While the doctors think they are helping to control their patient’s pain, they may actually end up prolonging the agony of many more people.
As the number of patients receiving prescription medication, such as OxyContin or Hydrocodone, increases, the number of addictions increases as well. When the addict’s prescription runs out, many attempt to seek the pills wherever they can. Since obtaining medication on the streets is illegal and costly, addicts may shop around at different hospitals attempting to fulfill their need. In many cases, one hospital is unaware of the prescriptions already given to the patient by another hospital.
The Dangers of Prescription Drug Shopping
Many addicts fake injuries or even actually injure themselves to make their need for prescription medication seem necessary. This practice clogs emergency rooms, disrupts legitimate care, and disturbs other patients. Often, the addict will get out of control, hoping the emergency department staff will fill a small prescription just to make him or her leave. This leaves the pharmacist to make the decision on whether it would be ethical to fill the prescription.
With these considerations in mind, states across the nation have begun to implement prescription monitoring programs. The idea initially started in the 1990s, but was shut down by lawyers who were concerned with patient’s privacy rights. The revival of the system is due, in part, to the shocking increase in Opiate addictions that has recently gripped our nation.
Positive aspects of a prescription monitoring program include:
• Curbing painkiller shopping;
• Reduction in addiction;
• Making sure the patient gets the correct medication;
• Helping doctors make informed decisions;
• Reduction in overprescribing medications;
• Returning focus to legitimate patients;
• Solidifying connection between doctors and pharmacists;
• Reduction in illegal sale of prescription medications; and
• Reduction in corresponding Heroin addictions.
Negative aspects of a prescription monitoring program include:
• Lack of prevention of drug shopping across state borders;
• High cost of implementing such a system;
• Time constraints (it may take up to ten minutes to check the database for one patient);
• Possibility of violation patient privacy rights;
• Possibility of a breach of the system;
• Possibility of mis-identifying a patient as a prescription drug abuser/shopper.
While most states have implemented some level a prescription monitoring program, the future consequences, whether good or bad, remain to be seen.