Central Data To Help Spot Meds Abuse

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Addicts: Officials Could Put End To Doctor-Shopping.

An online prescription drug database that allows doctors and pharmacists to track a patient’s medication history instantly and deter addicts from "doctor-shopping” is expected to launch statewide next year, officials announced Wednesday.

The $3.5 million system, the largest online prescription drug database in the United States, will be funded through a combination of private and public money.

"What we’re seeing is people doctor-shopping and getting two or three prescription drugs and going out and abusing them or selling them,” state Attorney General Jerry Brown said. "If California puts this information online, with real-time access, it will give authorized doctors and pharmacies the technology they need to fight prescription drug abuse, which is burdening our health-care system.”

Currently, the Attorney General’s Office receives more than 60,000 requests from doctors and pharmacies for patient prescription history information, but the process is arduous. Requests are made by fax or phone and can take several
days to process, Brown said.

Emergency room visits related to the nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, increased 21 percent from 2004 to 2005, the latest data available, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The majority of these visits involved multiple drugs.

The idea for the database was spawned three years ago by Bob and Carmen Pack, a Danville, Calif., couple whose two children were killed in a car crash in 2003 by a driver who was under the influence of six prescription drugs obtained from
multiple doctors.

The couple founded the Troy and Alana Pack Foundation, named after their son and daughter, which will help raise more than half the $3.5 million needed to launch the Web site and maintain it for the next few years.

The foundation is working with Kaiser Permanente, the California State Board of Pharmacy and the Attorney General’s Office to develop the new database.

"I’m very proud of the attorney general for his willingness to be a part of this,” Bob Pack said, adding that the doctors who gave the driver who killed his children the six drugs never talked to each other.

Pack said the second phase of the database also will help law enforcement officials track down physicians or so-called
"Dr. Feelgoods” who might be doling out prescription drugs for profit.

"It would be wonderful if you could go to a database and find out immediately,” said pharmacist Michael Hall, who works at Capitol Drugs in Sherman Oaks. "Cases like that come up very regularly.”

Consumer watchdog groups say privacy measures should be in place before the database is launched.

"We understand and appreciate the goal of this, but what we’re saying is that as more and more of our medical records are put online, consumers are more at risk of having their information stolen or broken into by hackers,” said Jerry Flanagan, health-care policy director for Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog.

"It has to have a clear safety mechanism so that patients don’t have their records exposed to the public.”

Brown and other state officials said the database will be operated through the Department of Justice rather than a third-party company, and will include several layers of security features to deter hacking.

Contact the authoar at: [email protected] or 818-713-3664.

Consumer Watchdog
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