Few New York Doctors Using Prescription Drug Monitoring Database

Few New York physicians are using a state prescription drug monitoring database that aims to reduce "doctor shopping" among those who misuse prescription drugs, Long Island Newsday reports (Ochs, Long Island Newsday, 12/21).

Doctor shopping refers to the practice in which people with substance misuse issues travel from doctor to doctor in search of prescriptions for narcotics (iHealthBeat, 8/12/10).

Few Doctors Using New York's System

Officials from the New York State Department of Health said that of the 80,000 health care providers in the state who can prescribe pain medications and other drugs, about 47,000 opened accounts with the Controlled Substance Information System since it launched in the spring of 2010. However, as of last month, only about 2,216 health care providers had used the system.

Some physicians say they do not use the voluntary system because they have other controls in place to catch potential drug misuse. Other critics said the system:

  • Does not allow pharmacists to access it;
  • Does not allow physicians to check whether patients have gotten prescriptions filled in other states;
  • Is too difficult to use; and
  • Is updated monthly, which is not often enough to be helpful.

Comparing With Other States

Sarah Kelsey -- legislative attorney for the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws -- said most of the 37 states with similar databases update them more frequently. She noted that most states update their systems every two weeks, while some states like Oklahoma make their data available in real time.

Don Vogt of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics said real-time access to data has increased use of the system, with about 60% of the state's physicians now using the drug tracking database.

Efforts To Improve New York's System

Jeffrey Gordon, spokesperson for the New York health department, said the state is continuing to educate prescribers about the prescription tracking database and is looking for ways to improve it. He said his department is working to balance patient privacy protections with a need to make the database more user-friendly.

During this legislative session, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) plans to reintroduce a measure that would implement a new prescription tracking system called I-Stop. The system would operate in real time and would require both prescribers and pharmacists to monitor prescriptions of controlled substances (Long Island Newsday, 12/21).

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