Barnett bill seen as way to cut prescription abuse

Published 6:00 am Friday, March 5, 2004

Dist. 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett expects a House committee to takeup a bill Thursday that would help authorities identify potentialcases of prescription drug abuse.

Barnett’s bill would create a controlled substances prescriptionmonitoring program under the direction of the state Board ofPharmacy. It has been referred to the Public Health and HumanServices and Appropriations committees.

“It’s a good bill,” said Barnett, who anticipated its passage bythe health and human service committee today.

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Barnett said the top drug problem is not cocaine, but abuse ofprescription drugs.

Barnett credited Dr. David Smith, a family doctor from Summit,with helping him get the legislation going. Smith said the problemis not only in southwest Mississippi, but across the state.

“I’ve seen the epidemic abuse that’s out there in thecommunity,” Smith said.

Barnett’s bill would require drug dispensers to provide thepharmacy board with information such as the patient’s name, thetype of drug and quantity given and the prescriber’s name. Theboard would set up guidelines regarding reporting frequency.

“Privacy would be maintained,” Barnett said about patientsrecords confidentiality.

However, the act calls for the board to review the informationsubmitted to it and notify authorities, such as the MississippiBureau of Narcotics, should they suspect a violation of the law.Barnett said the bill would help alert the board if they detect adoctor prescribing drugs outside his field of expertise, or if heis prescribing high quantities of a particular medication.

“If they see that as a frequent pattern, there would be someexamination of it,” Barnett said.

The bill also has been referred to the Appropriations Committee.However, Barnett and Smith both mentioned receiving a grant to fundthe electronic equipment needed to establish the program.

“This is at no cost to the state,” Barnett said.

In fact, Smith believes the monitoring program will actuallysave money in a variety of ways. He said it would save money byreducing the costs of prosecuting prescription drug abusers andrehabilitating them after a conviction.

“All these people would be stopped at the source from gettingthese prescriptions,” said Smith, who has written articles aboutthe topic for the American Family Association.

Smith said the monitoring system would also reduce doctors’staff costs regarding following up on prescriptions. He saiddoctors would not have to wonder if someone who is seeking aprescription is telling them the truth or not.

“We get taken advantage of sometimes because we want to helppeople,” Smith said.

Smith said individual tablets of prescription pain killers likeLorcet or OxyContin can sell for several dollars to $20 each on thestreet.

“It’s a big problem,” Smith said. “Each state that has this kindof monitoring system has seen a drastic decline.”

Smith said about 16 states now have a prescription drugmonitoring program.

Prescription drug abuse problem is one that affects a lot offamilies, Smith said. In addition to families of drug abusers, hementioned homes or people who could be robbed to support anabuser’s habit.

He said the monitoring program could address some of thosefears.

“I think it will make people feel safer knowing that peoplecan’t go to the pharmacy and get these prescription drugs for verylong without being caught,” Smith said.

If approved by the full House, the bill would also have to passthe Senate and then by signed by the governor. The bill is HouseBill 1187.