More than half of the pharmacies in Iowa are now participating in a voluntary program designed to cut the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs. That’s according to Terry Witkowski with the Iowa Board of Pharmacy. He testified before the state’s Drug Policy Advisory Council, which has been keeping track of abuse of prescription drugs, including painkillers.

Witkowski said it’s more difficult now to go from pharmacy to pharmacy to get more and more drugs. “Some of the things we track (are) the number of patients who go to 5 or more, or 10 or more, or 15 or more pharmacies or prescribers to get their prescription drugs and those numbers are falling every year,” Witkowski said.

Iowa’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is now five years old. Before the program was launched, Witkowski said it was easy to go to a dozen or more doctors or pharmacies and get a prescription at each one. The numbers were pretty high, especially in the 15 or more or 10 or more pharmacies or prescribers that were being used. The next year, those numbers dropped dramatically,” Witkowski said.

The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is now being used by 56-percent of the state’s pharmacies, according to Witkowski. Under the voluntary program, doctors and pharmacies can check the system to see if a patient is getting multiple prescriptions. The Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy reports that prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing form of substance abuse in the state.

A national report issued this week shows the number of deaths in Iowa from drug overdoses has quadrupled in just 11 years. The report from Trust for America’s Health states most drug overdoses are from prescription drugs rather than illegal drugs like heroin or cocaine.