Across the nation the war on drugs has been taken from the streets to doctor’s offices, with drug overdoses account for 16 deaths per 100,000 people living in the state. An estimated 116 million Americans are suffering from long-term battles with legitimate pain, but as more people are prescribed powerful painkillers abuse of that medication has become America’s fastest-growing drug problem. Locally, a 2010 report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention listed Tennessee as the 8th state for prescription drug overdoses. Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Greg Roberts said, “at a state level we’re finding it to be extremely difficult to do anything when these folks are carrying their own prescription meds.”
In response to this growing concern, Governor Bill Haslam has announced a new bill proposal that would require doctors and pharmacists to consult a controlled substance database before writing or dispensing prescription medication. This would eliminate the final loophole that enables patients with pain pill addictions to “doctor shop” in order to gain access to prescriptions. Furthermore, the bill would require pharmacists to consult the database each time they fill a prescription for a controlled substance and then again at regular intervals during treatment. The law as it stands now compels practitioners to enter a patient’s information and medication history into a database, however, they are allowed 40 days to enter the data. The new bill would give law enforcement more access to the state’s prescription drug monitoring database and improve active monitoring of that database.
The legislature last year unanimously passed Sen. Ken Yager’s bill that imposed unprecedented regulations on pain management clinics. Tennessee law defines a pain clinic as a privately owned facility where more than half the patients are prescribed pain management narcotics for durations of more than 90 days. The new regulations, which took effect Jan. 1, require pain clinics to register with the Tennessee Department of Health, outlaw cash payments for treatment, a characteristic of pill mills, and require licensed physicians to be present in the clinics at least 20 percent of the time. A new proposal by Yager would require pain clinic doctors, but not other practitioners, to enter a reason in the database for writing a prescription for a controlled substance. The families of those who have died or still fighting addiction to pain medication are hopeful the new legislation will restore order to the medical community.
Posted By: Eston Whiteside