Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

House Oks Monitoring Prescription Drugs ACLU Calls Bill Too Broad, Invasive

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

House Oks Monitoring Prescription Drugs ACLU Calls Bill Too Broad, Invasive

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG -- A bill that would create a new statewide prescription drug monitoring database, with the goal of tracking the use of commonly abused drugs, including Vicodin and Oxycontin, passed the state House last month and awaits action in the Senate.

The proposal is part of Gov. Tom Corbett's Healthy PA plan, which seeks to overhaul Medicaid and implement a number of other health care-related bills.

The legislation aims to replace the attorney general's existing database, which tracks a more narrow category of prescription drugs and does not make any information collected accessible to doctors and pharmacists, according to a statement from Rep. Matt Baker, R- Tioga, the proposal's sponsor.

"For example, if someone receives prescriptions from two different doctors for a narcotic and goes to two different pharmacies to get the prescriptions filled, that information will show up on the database," Mr. Baker said.

Overdoses of prescription painkillers have more than tripled in the past 20 years, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, killing more than 15,500 people in the United States in 2009.

The new database would include federal schedule II through V drugs, and aims to aid doctors, pharmacists and law enforcement uncover so-called "doctor shopping."

Tracked in the database would be prescriptions for such commonly abused drugs as Vicodin, Oxycontin, Oxymorphone, Valium, Xanax, Ritalin and Adderall, said Chuck Moran, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Medical Society, a physician's group that supported the legislation.

Most other states have some type of prescription drug database, supporters of the bill note.

"Pennsylvania would be behind the curve. ... All the [states] around us have this," said Bruce MacLeod, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society and medical director for West Penn Hospital's emergency room.

"There is an absolute epidemic out there, especially with these opiates, prescription drugs," said Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R- Bucks, a longtime supporter of such a database.

The governor's embrace of the idea as part of his Healthy PA plan "was a significant boost for the topic," Mr. …

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