Voluntary use hurts Minnesota drug monitor programSupporters of Minnesota's two-year-old prescription drug monitoring program say it has helped detect patients who might be addicted to pain medication, but they worry that not enough doctors are using the voluntary system.
By: Associated Press,
ST. PAUL — Supporters of Minnesota's two-year-old prescription drug monitoring program say it has helped detect patients who might be addicted to pain medication, but they worry that not enough doctors are using the voluntary system.
The high-profile drug overdose death of former Minnesota Wild hockey player Derek Boogaard turned a spotlight on prescription drug abuse and doctor shopping. Supporters of the state's prescription drug database said it likely would not have prevented Boogaard's extensive efforts to obtain prescription drugs, because he was traded to the New York Rangers shortly after Minnesota's program started.
But the database has helped doctors identify other patients abusing prescription narcotics, according to a report Wednesday by Minnesota Public Radio News.
Al Anderson, medical director for Medical Pain Management LTD in St. Louis Park, said he checks the database every time he fills a prescription to see whether his patient has failed to disclose similar prescriptions from other physicians.
"We've found people who have been doctor shopping," Anderson said. He said it happens frequently enough, usually three to four times a month, to be a concern.
Anderson said there are ways to get around the system's checks. Searching the database requires only a patient's name and birth date, making it somewhat easy to use phony identification.
But supporters of the system said that isn't its biggest flaw.
"The system only works if people use it and there's no requirement to use it," said Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, which administers the program. State lawmakers decided to make the program voluntary and penalty-free, Wiberg said, after some doctors complained they did not want to participate in a system that could be used to track their prescribing patterns.
So far, about 7,500 prescribers have signed up with the system — only about a quarter of those eligible. Wiberg said all of the state's pain management doctors and most emergency medicine physicians have signed up.
Wiberg said he believes most of the privacy concerns raised by doctors have been addressed, but he suspects many have forgotten about the monitoring system. Data from the Board of Pharmacy shows that new registrations for the program doubled last week after more revelations about Boogaard's extensive use of pain medication.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.