Shannon Lundgren

Legislation designed to address the growing number of opioid overdoses has passed the Iowa House, but it doesn’t go as far as some advocates hoped. The bill would require all doctors to register with the Iowa Prescription Monitoring Program.

The system tracks prescriptions for controlled substances like codeine, OxyContin and Vicodin. Representative Shannon Lundgren, a Republican from Peosta, refers to the system as the PMP.

“Right now I know that there are 42 percent of the prescribers registered for the PMP,” Lundgren says, “and 83 percent of the pharmacies are registered for the PMP.”

That means fewer than half of Iowa doctors have registered with the prescription-tracking system that went online eight years ago. Representative John Forbes of Urbandale, who is a pharmacist, unsuccessfully argued the new legislation should force doctors to check that database before issuing a prescription for a new patient.

“There are many people that ‘doctor shop,'” Forbes says, “and they’ll go from clinic to clinic, trying to obtain controlled substances in an illegal manner.”

Forbes says it takes him about a minute to check the system before he fills a prescription.

“I see, occasionally, fraudulent prescriptions brought into my pharmacy because the patient has committed fraud,” Forbes says, “saying that they have an issue with pain.”

Forbes believes if these prescriptions had been filled, the drugs would wind up on the street for resale. Lundgren, the Republican who guided the bill through House debate, successfully argued against a new “mandate” that doctors to check first-time patients who get prescritions for powerful pain-killers and sedatives.

“I think further study could be warranted in the future,” Lundgren says.

The Iowa Prescription Monitoring Program reports that during 2016, they got more than 8000 requests per month from Iowa doctors and pharmacists checking records in Iowa and five neighboring states to see if someone was “doctor shopping.”

Opioid abuse has skyrocketed, with about 90 Americans dying of an opioid overdose every day.