(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) – A key provision in legislation designed to combat prescription drug abuse has now become effective. Sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman) and passed by the Tennessee General Assembly last year, the new law targets prescription drug abusers who “doctor shop” in order to obtain prescription pain pills.
“I am very pleased to see this new law enacted as we begin to attack this health epidemic,” said Senator Yager. “Prescription drug abuse has a far reaching effect on our state. It has touched virtually every family in Tennessee.”
The new provision requires doctors or their designees to check Tennessee’s Controlled Substance Monitoring Database as of April 1, 2013 before initially prescribing an opioid or benzodiazepine substance or at every six months thereafter for the same episode of treatment. Tennessee’s database includes basic patient information, the identity of the prescribing practitioner, the pharmacy that filled the prescription, and the name, amount and form of medication that the patient received. Although the database required doctors, pharmacists or their designees to report, there was no requirement that they check the database before prescribing or dispensing scheduled drugs to patients. Yager said the new law “took the next natural step to address the crux of the problem with abuse — doctor shopping.”
On January 1, the law enhanced penalties for doctor shopping from a Class A misdemeanor offense to a Class E Felony when it involves 250 or more pills. The stiffer penalties allow law enforcement officials to go after dealers who distribute the drugs illegally.
Tennessee ranks second in the nation in regard to the overutilization of prescription pain medications, with an average of 20 Tennesseans losing their lives each week from drug overdose. There were more deaths in Tennessee due to drug overdoses than motor vehicle accidents, homicide or suicide, an alarming statistic for any state.
“With just about every family touched in some way be prescription abuse, it is not just the individual who abuses prescription drugs that is harmed by the ill effects,” added Yager. “It is their families, friends and other loved ones who often suffer along side of them. I hope the enactment of this new law will save many lives in Tennessee and that it will help families and friends from enduring the pain of prescription drug abuse.”