PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — If you’ve been to the pharmacy lately, you were probably asked to show your driver’s license.
It is all part of an effort to crack down on an epidemic of overdose deaths in Pennsylvania.
Other states have done this procedure for years, but almost 3,400 overdose deaths last year have been a wakeup call, and this year is on track to be even worse.
Whether they are from prescription overdoses or heroine, the state says most of the deaths can be traced back to an opioid or painkiller genesis.
“The reduction of opioid prescriptions is absolutely essential to curb this crisis,” says Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania Physician General.
It’s a lifesaving crusade that starts with the doctors.
“To make sure that over-prescribing stops,” said Gary Tennis, the secretary of the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.
And that depends on help from pharmacists.
“Somebody new comes in, you look at it a little bit harder, want the information to make sure that it’s actually for them and it’s a doctor in the area,” says Fred DePasquale, of Waltmire Pharmacy.
But up until now, Pennsylvania has had no way to track if that patient is pharmacy or doctor shopping.
“By the end of August, we will have completed the ABC map system that will serve as a central database for opioid prescribers, letting them know what has been prescribed, to whom and by whom,” said Gov. Tom Wolf.
To create that database is why you’re being asked for ID when you go to your pharmacy. The state has previously gotten the information, but in monthly reports.
“There is no longer a lag time. We have to transmit that information to them daily,” DePasquale says.
The governor wants the legislature to make checking the database mandatory before scripts are written or filled.
“You’ll be able to find out if that particular patient has been anywhere else in their recent history, if they’ve been in another pharmacy three days previously or even that day or whatever the case is,” said DePasquale.
But it’s important to point out; the information for the database is limited to “controlled substances.”
While the request for ID may be an inconvenience, don’t expect an apology from the state leaders.
“The point is we all have a problem here in Pennsylvania,” says Gov. Wolf.
The governor reminds us that this is an epidemic of death that reaches into every neighborhood no matter the economic level. That means it’s critical that the database is comprehensive, including even your neighborhood pharmacy.