Prescription Drug Abuse Legislation Approved by Senate Judiciary Committee

(NASHVILLE, TN), March 13, 2012 – Legislation, sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman), that would curb prescription drug abuse in Tennessee was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee today.  The bill would require doctors or their designees to check the state’s Controlled Substance Monitoring Database for patients’ prescription history before prescribing an opioid or benzodiazepine substance.  

“Tennessee ranks second in the nation in regard to the overutilization of prescription pain medications,” said Senator Yager.  “Eighty percent of people in jail are there due to a drug abuse.  This bill strikes a hard blow at one of the sources of this poison — doctor shopping.  Checking the database will help doctors identify patients who are doctor-shopping for prescription drugs.”

Senate Bill 2733 , which is included in Governor Bill Haslam’s legislative package, requires pharmacies to collect a patient’s prescription information and report that information to the database every seven days.  Currently it must be reported within 40 days.

“We need real time reporting to truly address this problem,” said Senator Yager.  “This bill gives us information much quicker to identify doctor shoppers.”

The bill enhances penalties for doctor shopping from a Class A misdemeanor offense to a Class E Felony when it involves 250 or more pills.  Yager said the stiffer penalties allow law enforcement officials to go after the dealers who distribute the drugs illegally. 

Under the bill, information from the database regarding patients’ prescription information can be released to law enforcement if they are engaged in an investigation or through a court order.  With appropriate board approval, doctors’ and pharmacists’ prescribing / dispensing information could also be released to departmental investigators. This will help identify those medical professionals who are contributing to Tennessee’s prescription drug problem.

“Prescription drug abuse is a public health epidemic in Tennessee,” added Yager.  “In the last ten years more than 8,000 Tennesseans have died from drug overdoses.  It has touched virtually every family in Tennessee.  I am very pleased the committee has approved this legislation.”

The bill now goes to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee for consideration.

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