PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pennsylvania is launching a new database to make it harder to go from doctor to doctor to get prescription painkillers.
“I punched in my information, the database opened right up, under my name, I punched in the patient’s first name, last name, date of birth, and every controlled substance that was being prescribed for about the past year came up in that database. And I was able to see who was prescribing, and I was able to see what dates they were prescribed, and what medications they were prescribed,” says Dr. Jack Kabazie, a pain specialist at West Penn Hospital.
“We were able to ascertain that one of the patients we were seeing for a long time was actually getting multiple prescriptions from multiple doctors all along. And we had no idea that this was happening,” he added.
Dr. Paul Porter finds it easy to use. He registers into the system with license and DEA numbers, enters patient information, and gets a list of the patient’s recent prescriptions.
“In my limited experience of one day, it gives you a pretty comprehensive view of that person’s medication,” says Dr. Paul Porter, an emergency department physician at Allegheny General Hospital.
The need to identify people who are abusing or selling narcotics has reached crisis levels. Pennsylvania had more than 3,000 overdose deaths last year.
“It’s almost like the ring in ‘Lord of the Rings.’ Once you put that on, you have to have your precious,” explains Dr. Porter.
Dr. Kabazie’s goal is to get addicted patients into an inpatient rehab straight from his office, but this can be a challenge.
“At present, there aren’t enough facilities,” he says, “but I’m hopeful we will become more proactive in regards to opening these facilities up.”
One concern is if people can’t get the drugs and can’t get treatment, they’ll turn to street drugs.
“The difficult part is when you find out someone is doctor shopping. Then, it becomes difficult. How do you approach the patient? And not alienate the patient and put them out on the street in harm’s way perhaps,” says Dr. Kabazie.
Doctors must check the database the first time they prescribe narcotics for a patient, but to keep the system easy to use, they aren’t required to on subsequent visits. Doctors do have the option to check at any time, and the Department of Health would prefer doctors check periodically.