A new report on the state’s prescription drug monitoring program shows doctors and pharmacists in Iowa are approving more and more prescriptions for legal drugs, including some popular painkillers. The program collects information from doctors and pharmacists who voluntarily report prescriptions.

Board of Pharmacy director Lloyd Jessen says prescriptions for the painkiller hydrocodone sometimes marketed as “vicadin” went up nearly 9% over the last two years. He says for the first half of 2011, there were nearly 60,000 prescriptions for it and over 34 million doses dispensed. Jessen reported the data to a state task force studying how to reduce prescription drug abuse.

Jessen says the tracking system is primarily used because someone has identified a patient they believe is doctor shopping or there’s been a prescription forgery. Jessen says as a result, the number of patients getting drugs from five or more places has dropped.

Dr. Dana Simon of the Mercy Center for Pain Medicine says there needs to be even more oversight before pain meds go out. “Ideally every patient who’s taking opiates for three to six months should be looked at in terms of what they’re doing with the medication,” Simon said.

Simon also says there should be clearer guidelines for reporting abuses to law enforcement. He says there should be penalties for patients who’s a known abuser, as he says many times in their clinic they say “goodbye“ to abusers. The Iowa Board of Medicine adopted a new rule encouraging physicians to use the database if they believe a patient is at risk of abusing or selling prescription drugs.

Some pharmacists on the task force say online pharmacies should also be participating in the drug monitoring program.