U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar says when visiting the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's treatment center a few months ago she learned of a patient who had filled 108 prescriptions for painkillers. They were written out by more than 85 different doctors or other prescribers across Minnesota, Klobuchar says.
That kind of "doctor shopping" could be stunted if all doctors who prescribe potentially addictive painkillers shared that information with each other through a common database, the Minnesota Democrat argued in a return trip to Hazelden on Tuesday.
Klobuchar is the author of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act. Under that bill, any state that accepts federal money to fight opioid addiction would have to use a drug monitoring program and share the information with other states.
The senator acknowledged that a monitoring program creates more work for doctors, who would have to enter every painkiller prescription they write into the system. But she told WCCO that without one "there’s absolutely no way to monitor when people are going around, going to different doctors.”
Minnesota has a Prescription Monitoring Program, however it's voluntary and doctors are not required to enter all the painkiller prescriptions they write.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 49 states have some sort of prescription monitoring program. The CDC calls them a good way to flag suspected abusers and says the monitoring can also help doctors or pharmacists identify patients who might be ripe for an intervention.
They also say more research is needed to identify the best practices used in the various state systems.
Use of opiod painkillers – like Vicodin, OxyContin, or Percocet – has been blamed for a rise in overdose deaths, particularly when addicts switch to heroin.
A spokesman for the Minnesota Medical Association told the Star Tribune a mandatory monitoring system would place an excessive burden on doctors.