Some Doctors Object to Prescription Drug Monitoring Databases

As a growing number of states implement prescription drug monitoring databases to curb “doctor shopping” for painkillers, some physicians say they object to aspects of the programs.

The databases are designed to alert prescribers that a patient may be abusing drugs, or diverting them for illegal sale, according to Reuters. Currently, 43 states have the databases, and another five states have passed laws to create them.

Pharmacists enter prescriptions for controlled substances, so doctors can see if a patient is attempting to obtain drugs from more than one location.

Sherry Green, CEO of the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws, told Reuters that some doctors are concerned that the database programs could breach patient confidentiality, and interfere with needed pain treatment. They also worry that the databases could be used against doctors who need to prescribe high amounts of painkillers.

Some doctors object to being required to consult the database every time they prescribe potentially addictive medication, and say it should be left to their discretion, according to Green. They also say using the database is time-consuming. States are trying to increase the speed of the database so that doctors can access information while patients are still in the office. Some states allow doctors to authorize another staff member to use the database on their behalf.

The article notes some doctors see laws requiring mandatory use of the databases as putting law enforcement above health care. The Kentucky Medical Association was able to fight a provision that would have moved the state’s database to the Attorney General’s office.

Many prescription monitoring databases allow doctors and pharmacists to access information from neighboring states, which helps cut down on people driving across state lines to find more prescriptions.