Iowa's prescription drug monitoring program


CBS 2/FOX 28 news continues to track the rapidly growing problem of opioid addiction in Iowa. The latest research shows the number of prescription pain pills prescribed in 2017 equals 90 pills for every Iowan. And, overdoses killed 180-Iowans last year alone. Right now - all states except for Missouri have a Prescription Monitoring Program where pharmacists document when a patient is prescribed a highly addictive medication like Oxycontin, Hydrocodone, Percocet. The idea is for health care providers to access that information before they give out a pain pill prescription.

Some prescribers say Iowa's PMP could be better. Dr. Deborah Joyner, a dentist, says "i also, maybe once or twice a week, get an email from someone that's been put on alert." Dr. Joyner is among only four-percent of Iowa dentists who have registered to use the state's Prescription Monitoring Program.

Joyner says the current tracking system is hard to navigate. Other providers say the system takes too much time to check while a patient is waiting for treatment. "I don't feel like you can just type in someone's name and up pops the information. Perhaps that's in there, but I can't find the page or portal to see whether this person is a good candidate to prescribe for, or not", says Joyner.

Unlike most other states where prescribers are required to check the PMP, in iowa, it's only voluntary. Chad Zadrazil says, "At this point, about 37 states have mandatory use requirements for some, if not all of their prescribers, depending on the circumstances." Zadrazil is a legislative attorney for the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws based in northern Iowa. Zadrazil's agency compares policy in all 50 states to see what's working, and what isn't. He says in states where checking the PMP is mandatory, more than 90 percent of prescribers are using it. In Iowa, less than half consult it. But he says making it mandatory is not the end goal. Instead, it's about making prescribers aware of the program, and for states to make the program easy to use. Zadrazil says, "it can provide invaluable information to your practice to help you make a safer, more informed prescription decision, when you're sitting there with a patient with whom you may not have a relationship with on a long term basis."

Critics of PMPs say a patient's right to privacy or a true need for pain relief could be lost by putting a person's opiate history into such a database. But Zadrazil says the information is treated like a health record with tough security measures in place. "All PMPs that I'm aware of are all HIPPA compliant and have very stringent security requirements and controls, similar to an electronic health record or other system that stores this type of information." While that information is valuable for prescribers like Dr. Joyner, she says it would help even more if Iowa's PMP would follow other states and offer more information, such as nearby treatment centers, or other resources she can use to help her patients if their name raises a red flag. Joyner says, "if we did come up with a situation where, okay, this patient is in my office, obviously they have an issue with getting too many prescriptions, then what do i do? Their name popped up on your website. What's my next step?"

Iowa has had a prescription monitoring program since 2009. A new bill introduced by House republicans would require prescribers in Iowa to use the PMP. CBS 2/FOX 28 news will continue to follow this bill, and let you know if it makes it to the governor's desk.


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