Drug czar pushes Rx monitoring for all states

Twelve states still don't have prescription oversight laws. Florida's awaits governor's signature.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted June 17, 2009

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In his first major speech since his appointment as the so-called drug czar, R. Gil Kerlikowske reaffirmed the Office of National Drug Control Policy's push to expand prescription drug monitoring programs to all 50 states.

Kerlikowske, the former police chief of Seattle, delivered an address at the May 20 National Methamphetamine and Pharmaceutical Initiative meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

He said it is "essential" that prescription drug monitoring programs are in place across the country.

"Just as law enforcement needs to learn from health professionals about addiction and abuse to help us do our jobs, so too must the health community learn from law enforcement about the public safety consequences of excessive prescriptions and the reality of doctor shopping," Kerlikowske said in his address.

The American Medical Association supports the expansion of prescription drug monitoring programs as a way of assisting physicians in identifying patients in need of help, rather than for the use of civil action against physicians.

According to Sherry Green, executive director of the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws, prescription drug monitoring programs have always been a major issue for the director of the NDCP, and Kerlikowske is continuing that tradition. There are currently 38 states with laws authorizing a monitoring program, with 33 having a program up and running.

Florida passed a law authorizing a program earlier this year. It is waiting to be signed by the governor.

In his address, Kerlikowske, who spent most of his law enforcement career in Florida, said the state has an "extremely acute problem." The rate of deaths in Florida caused by prescription drugs is three times as high as the rate of deaths caused by illegal drugs, he said.

The recently passed law is a step in the right direction, he said, "but clearly, the diversion of prescription drugs remains one of the greatest challenges we face nationwide."

Kerlikowske's address came on the heels of a suspected breach of the prescription drug monitoring database in Virginia. A hacker or group of hackers vandalized the program Web site and posted a note there claiming to have the records of more than 8 million patients. The incident is under investigation.

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