A proposal to track prescriptions of often-abused drugs is getting a mixed reception. Lloyd Jessen is Executive Director with the Iowa Board of Pharmacy Examiners explains it would be a statewide computer database where druggists would record prescriptions for controlled substances. “The goal is just to give physicians and pharmacists a better tool,” Jessen says, “to know what the patient is taking — to be a mechanism for alerting doctors and pharmacists to patients who are overusing something.” It would only apply to narcotics and other “Schedule 2” drugs. A controlled drug, he says — pain pills, sleeping medications others considered addictive. With that info in the database, any pharmacist anywhere in Iowa could check when a patient comes in to buy that kind of medication. They could put in the name of the patient and see what else had been dispensed or prescribed for that same person. Powerful new drugs like hydro-codone are among the most abused today, Jessen says. The Iowa Medical Society’s been an on-and-off supporter of the idea, as spokeswoman Janine Freeman says prescription tracking offers both promise — and problems. Abusing prescription drugs for inappropriate purposes has become a growing problem nationwide, she says. Freeman says many states have found that a statewide tracking database can be a lot of help to law-enforcement in dealing with people who are abusing otherwise legitimate prescription drugs. But the doctors’ professional association also sees a downside to such a gold-mine of data. Prescription data, after all, is confidential medical information. Freeman says “the vast majority of Iowans are not abusing drugs, and they consider that information to be somewhat sacred.” They want it kept confidential, just between them and their doctors. Doctors want to ensure that having a database won’t discourage people from making legitimate visits to the doctor for treatment that’s needed, and legitimate access to prescription drugs their doctors prescribe for them. The state medical society worked long and hard to see that its concerns were addressed in a bill creating the controlled-substance database. It’s essential, they said, that the database be controlled and confidentiality assured, that security be in place and yet doctors also can access the information for their parents, “without fear or risk of liability.” The group wanted strict limits on any police use of the data, even though preventing narcotics abuse is one reason for its creation. But the bill didn’t make it all the way to passage. Today there are still many urging creation of the prescription-drug on-line info center, but the doctors don’t want anything going into use until a new bill is crafted and passed — in the next legislative session.
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