Arizona soon will have a new tool to crack down on prescription drug abusers who move from doctor to doctor asking for pain killers.
Under a new bill signed this week by Gov. Janet Napolitano, the state can set up a computerized monitoring system to track when patients are using more than one doctor to get certain prescription drugs — a practice commonly referred to as “doctor shopping”.
Until now, drug abusers who visit various doctors and pharmacies to fill the same prescription multiple times were able to avoid detection because doctors and pharmacies were unable to share information.
Hal Wand, the executive director for the state Board of Pharmacy, said the system is complaint-driven and not a “fishing expedition.” Once a complaint is registered with the board, members of a newly created task force will investigate by using the new computer system.
If someone is found to be using multiple doctors, Wand said they will be contacted by the board or the task force. In some cases the board might ask the patient to explain why the need for all the drugs.
But there is nothing in the new law that makes the drug abusers any more criminally liable. The statute prohibits the agency from turning over information to law enforcement unless it is served with a court order.
Wand said there are 33 other states that have similar programs. He added that Arizona’s program would be modeled after Nevada’s, which has been in place for nearly 10 years. Under that system, patients are contacted after it’s shown they are using more than a dozen doctors.
“This law provides a powerful new tool for reducing prescription drug abuse and providing intervention opportunities,” Governor Napolitano said. “With this law in place the Pharmacy Board can better oversee the usage of prescription drugs and ensure that they are not being abused.”
The task force will be set up in September, but the state won’t start using the new system until January, Wand said. Additionally, he said it should cost about $200,000 to set up the program.
Examples of some controlled substances subject to monitoring:
• anabolic steroids