New York has legislation pending that would require physicians to access computerized drug monitoring databases every time they write a prescription for a controlled substance.
New York officials found that of the 80,000 health care professionals licensed to prescribe pain medications and other controlled substances, only 47,000 have opened an account that would grant them access to the database that went live in February 2010. As of November 2011, only 2,216 had used the system.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a report on Jan. 11 showing that the number of prescriptions for narcotic painkillers in New York increased from 16.6 million in 2007 to 22.5 million in 2010.
Schneiderman drafted a proposed bill that would require the Dept. of Health to establish and maintain a database capable of real-time information capture. Schneiderman's proposal would require a check of the database every time a physician writes a prescription for a schedule II, III, IV, or IV controlled substance. Assemblyman Michael Cusick, a Democrat from Staten Island, and State Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Republican from Staten Island, are sponsoring the proposed bill.
The portion of the bill regarding a real-time database is meant to address a flaw in databases -- the information often is updated in an inconsistent and untimely manner.
What monitoring programs cover and how often they are updated vary from state to state. But generally, a physician is assigned a login and password to a database that shows what prescriptions a patient has filled and who has prescribed them. The information can be used either to initiate addiction treatment or to report illegal activity.
An estimated 20 million Americans 12 and older have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons, according to the National Institutes of Health. Forty-eight states have enacted legislation to create a prescription drug monitoring program to help combat the rising epidemic, according to the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws. Thirty-seven of those states have a program up and running, but several have found use of the system is either very low or not keeping pace with the abuse the programs are meant to detect and reduce.