Database will track prescription drugs

Kayla Jonsson

The process of “doctor shopping,” or when patients see multiple doctors to be re-prescribed medication without the previous doctor’s knowledge, will become more difficult for prescription drug abusers this summer.

After years with a hard copy request through the mail as the only way for doctors to learn if a patient has been prescribed the same drug by multiple doctors, the Texas Department of Public Safety plans to unveil an Internet database which will inform doctors of the patients’ prescription history before they leave the office, the DPS told The Daily Texan in an email.

There are currently prescription drug monitoring programs operating in 36 other states; an additional 11 states and Guam have also enacted legislation for their own programs.

DPS representatives said the database is an attempt to prevent patients from abusing and distributing drugs obtained from multiple prescriptions. DPS representatives said the database is one of many tools a practitioner can use to make a professional decision about prescribing a patient a drug.

“The goal is to provide a single database record of all prescription transactions within the state of Texas in order to take a proactive approach to prevention, assist with criminal investigations, provide historical reporting and identify trends,” DPS representatives said.

Because of privacy laws, only doctors, pharmacists and police will have access to the database, DPS representatives said, and doctors will not be required to look up a patient each time a drug is prescribed if there does not seem to be a risk of abuse.

UTPD Sgt. Charles Bonnet said prescription drug abuse is an issue for students.

“It does go on more than it should and probably more often than people think,” Bonnet said. “I’d say there is more prescription drug abuse than marijuana, cocaine and other substance abuse.”

Bonnet said he has noticed an increase in the abuse of prescription drugs in the past five years. Students are caught with drugs not prescribed to them more often than distributing them, he said.

“Some students don’t realize that just because it was prescribed by a doctor to your friend, doesn’t mean you can take it, too,” Bonnet said. “If you take Adderall just because you are studying for an exam, and it’s not prescribed to you, it is a crime.”

Undeclared sophomore James Compean said he has heard about Adderall, a drug prescribed to those with ADHD and narcolepsy, being sold during exam weeks.

“I’ve heard people talk about Adderall being sold for $5 a pill during the semester and during exam weeks they can be sold for $20 each because people want to stay up late studying,” Compean said.

UT senior research scientist Jane Maxwell said the prescription drug database is necessary not only to detect drug abusers but also for doctors to offer the best treatment for a patient.

“People who get a lot of different prescriptions for real and legal reasons, such as the elderly, may go to one doctor and get prescribed one medication, then go to different doctor and get prescribed another, and the two drugs might be harmful when taken together,” Maxwell said. “This database is needed badly to prevent that.”

Printed on Thursday, February 9, 2012 as: DPS to prescription to prevent drug abuse