The board that regulates pharmacists is reporting today that some Iowans who go “doctor-shopping” are collecting excess amounts of strong painkilling drugs with a high potential to be addicting. Lloyd Jessen, director of the Iowa Board of Pharmacy Examiners, says they looked at some records in about one-third of the state’s pharmacies beginning late last summer.
Doctors and pharmacists know who potential problem patients are, he said, so they began there. Once some customers were identified as having a potential problem, he says it was easy to look at records at the pharmacies and see if they’ve filled certain kinds of prescriptions, and what they were for.
The object of the investigation was the use of powerful narcotics, especially some new ones developed in recent years to treat severe pain. Jessen says it’s the drugs that have an addictive nature, most particularly painkillers like hydrocodone and the brand-named Oxycontin and some others.
He says there’s a pattern in the behavior of some patients. They’ll go to many doctors, and not tell one that they’re being treated by another doctor — thereby getting the same drug prescription from all the doctors. Jessen says their survey found the same person might go to 40 doctors reporting the same problem, and get medication from all forty. He says it’s too easy to avoid detection now, and the board’s proposed legislation to keep records of who gets the strong painkillers.
Jessen says about 20 other states have such programs, and he sees support among Iowa pharmacists. He says the pharmacists would like to have it available as a tool, as a tracking program would help them stop feeding addictions and get people into treatment faster. A survey of some 300 of the state’s pharmacies turned up matches for dozens of people who’ve apparently gotten or filled multiple prescriptions for drugs like Oxycodone, codeine, morphine and other drugs.