Prescription drug database poised to become law in Pennsylvania

A bill to create a prescription database to deter doctor shopping and prevent overdoses is headed for the Pennsylvania governor's desk after passing both houses of the state General Assembly last week.

The database would be accessible to medical professionals and law enforcement officials pursuing active investigations. Although medical organizations and state officials support the bill--including Gov. Tom Corbett (R)--it has drawn criticism from privacy advocates as a government overreach, according to

"This is going to save lives; it's going to address doctor shopping; it's going to address drug diversion" and address the epidemic of opiate drug use, state Rep. Matt Baker (R-Tioga County) said in an article at

The state Department of Health reports that accidental drug overdoses increased nearly 150 percent between 2001 and 2011. Nearly 2,000 deaths were reported inn 2011, according to PennLive.

The database would track prescriptions of Schedule II drugs such as oxycodone through Schedule V drugs, which are less likely to be abused but still contain some narcotics, such as cough medicines with codeine.

First-year costs of the database are estimated to be between $1.1 million and $2.1 million, with annual maintenance and operation costs thereafter estimated between $600,000 and $1 million, according to PennLive.

New Hampshire has just launched its own prescription-tracking program, making it the 49th state to do so. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island also have joined forces to share prescription data, making it more difficult for addicts to shop for painkillers across state lines.

Only Missouri has no such program. Repeated attempts have failed to pass its legislature, with critics saying it is government intrusion into patient privacy.

States that have drug-monitoring programs in place, however, haven't necessarily been successful. Only 10 percent of doctors and one-third of pharmacists in Florida actually use the database set up there in 2010.

To learn more:
- read the PennLive article
- here's the TribLive story