Doctors, police part of a new phase of preventing drug abuse

(AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)
(AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) — This week, Wisconsin takes a new step in the fight against opioid and heroin drug abuse by launching the Enhanced Prescription Drug Monitoring Program or ePDMP.

Doctors and police can now take more steps to prevent so-called “doctor shopping.”

While most people who go to the doctor do truly need a prescription, there are those who just want pills because they’re addicted.

They bounce from doctor to doctor or among multiple pharmacies in what’s called doctor shopping.

The state made its first big attempt to halt that in 2013 when it launched the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. It’s a statewide database where pharmacists can enter details to track patients receiving commonly-abused opioids. Doctors could only view the information.

This week, phase two began, where doctors and law enforcement can now enter details in the system, too.

“As a physician, you check it, first of all, before you write a prescription. And secondly, when you do write a prescription, you enter that into the database as well,” explains Dr. Ashok Rai, president and CEO of Prevea Health. “You’re looking at opportunities to learn more about your patient and understanding or making sure they’re not addicted or diverting the medication. By us entering it in, it could create a red flag, because they could be going to multiple pharmacies.”

The most recent report from the state’s Controlled Substances Board shows the need for addressing the problem.

From July to September last year, 368 people received at least five prescriptions for monitored drugs and had them filled at at least five different pharmacies.

The report says two people got prescriptions from more than 16 different doctors, and one person had scripts filled at 12 different pharmacies.

The same report shows two pharmacists in Wisconsin were “referred to the Pharmacy Examining Board for possible investigation and disciplinary action” for improper use of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. The Board wouldn’t tell us where they were or what happened.

All these incidents were reported over a three-month period.

“I think we, as a profession, have to own this problem as much as anybody else does,” says Rai, adding that people need to be more educated about pain and pain management, understanding that, in some cases, it won’t completely go away.

Rai has helped push for changes for the last several years and thinks the new ePDMP is a good start to truly helping addicts.

“Probably a little overdue, but I think it was done in the right way,” he says.

While it’s taken three and a half years to allow doctors and police to enter data, Rai says that’s given the state time to create more treatment options.

“I know certain states, the day they launched it and they didn’t have the other investments, they saw the use of heroin go up significantly because people didn’t have access, so we’ve got to be cognizant of that.”

The Wisconsin Department of Safety and professional Services says all practitioners who prescribe controlled substances will be required to review a patient’s PDMP records before issuing a prescription order for that patient for a monitored drug on April 1, 2017, except in very specific circumstances.

Law enforcement agencies are currently required to submit reports to the PDMP for the following situations:

1.   When a law enforcement officer reasonably suspects that a violation of the Controlled Substances Act involving a prescribed drug is occurring or has occurred.

2.   When a law enforcement officer believes someone is undergoing or has immediately prior experienced an opioid-related drug overdose.

3.   When a law enforcement officer believes someone died as a result of using a narcotic drug.

4.   When a law enforcement officer receives a report of a stolen controlled substance prescription.

To learn more about the ePDMP, click here.