Physicians should use ‘doctor shopper’ database

An editorial from The Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — One of the hoped-for consequences of substance-abuse legislation passed by the West Virginia Legislature two years ago is starting to take shape. But also apparent is that a significant portion of the state’s medical community is slow to get on board with the program spelled out in that legislation.

Those are the two major take-aways from information disclosed recently by the state’s Board of Pharmacy, which was charged with the task of establishing a controlled-substances database and monitoring it for possible illegal activity.

The purpose of the legislation proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and approved in 2012 was to combat the rampant abuse of prescription drugs in West Virginia, which has the highest drug overdose death rate in the country.

The cornerstone of the law was establishing a statewide database recording new prescriptions within 24 hours in order to stop patients from receiving duplicate prescriptions from different doctors. A Board of Pharmacy committee was established to review the information, and this summer that panel began to examine records of thousands of patients.

One outcome of that review is that the Board of Pharmacy passed along to state police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration the names of about 90 people suspected of “doctor shopping” for pain pills during the last year, according to a report by The Charleston Gazette. One person got prescriptions for painkillers from 34 doctors, the pharmacy board said, and others obtained prescriptions from multiple doctors in different parts of the state. Those on the list will be investigated for possible criminal charges by local police and federal and county prosecutors. Not all are necessarily trying to “game” the system, pharmacy board officials said, but many are.

The development of the list of suspected doctor shoppers indicates how the review of the controlled-substance database can be effective. But it could be much more effective if doctors stepped up to meet the law’s requirements. It’s clear that many aren’t…

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