(NASHVILLE, TN) – State Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman) announced today that he will sponsor prescription drug abuse legislation in the 2012 legislative session to require doctors, pharmacists or their designees to check the state’s Controlled Substance Monitoring Database before prescribing or filling prescriptions for scheduled drugs. In addition, a separate bill being drafted by Senator Yager would require that anyone who picks up a prescription for a scheduled drug must show photo identification.
Yager was the sponsor of legislation passed in the 2011 legislative session that will go into effect January 1 cracking down on prescription drug abuse at pain clinics in Tennessee. That law required the Department of Health, in concert with the doctors, nurses and physician assistants, to establish rules to govern the operation of clinics, including personnel, patient records, data collection and reporting, inspections, health and safety requirement and patient billing. Beginning 2012, no pain management clinic will be allowed to operate without a certificate from the Department of Health, which can deny one to an applicant who has committed a felony or a misdemeanor related to the distribution of illegal prescription drugs or a controlled substance.
“Tennessee ranks second in the nation in regard to the overutilization of prescription pain medications,” said Senator Yager. “It is important that we continue to take steps to address this huge health and public safety issue in our state. The current state database is under utilized and closure of this loophole will strengthen our fight against the tragic epidemic of prescription drug misuse.”
Tennessee established a program to monitor the prescribing and dispensing of Schedule II, III, IV & V controlled substances with adoption of the “The Controlled Substance Monitoring Act of 2002.” With few exceptions, any health care practitioner that dispenses controlled substances to their patients for them to take home and any pharmacist who dispenses controlled substances must submit information regarding that transaction to the database. The 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 requires doctors, pharmacists or their designees to report, there is currently no requirement that they check the database before prescribing or dispensing scheduled drugs to patients.
“We have a database in place to guard against abuse,” Yager added ” We have a reporting requirement in place to guard against abuse. However, we are missing the most critical step in the process which is to tap into this information being reported to make sure that the patient is not doctor shopping for controlled substances or abusing prescription drugs. This legislation makes that next critical step.”
Three categories of commonly abused prescription drugs are opioids, central nervous system depressants and stimulants. Opioids include hydrocodone (Lortab, Lorcet, Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet), oxymorphone (Opana), morphine (MS Contin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), methadone, fentanyl, and codeine. Central nervous system depressants include such drugs as Valium, Xanax, Klonopin and phenobarbitol; while stimulants include drugs such as Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall and Dexedrine.
Statistics from the Tennessee Drug Diversion Task Force show that 56 percent of patients who received opioid prescriptions have filled another opioid prescription within the previous 30 days. Young adults ages18 to 25 have the highest annual rates of prescription drug abuse.
The second bill sponsored by Yager requires a person who picks up a prescription to show photo identification if the drug is a scheduled controlled substance. The identification requirement would help identify individuals who present a fraudulent prescription.
“Requiring photo ID to pick up these scheduled drugs should be a huge deterrent to fraud,” added Yager. “This requirement will give law enforcement and prosecutors more information regarding those who are abusing these drugs.”
“There isn’t a family in my district – or the state of Tennessee – that hasn’t been touched prescription drug abuse. In East Tennessee alone, 1500 people have died from overdoses in just the last 10 years. These bills will give additional tools in the fight to eradicate this scourge,” Yager concluded.