On Thursday, witnesses at a U.S. House subcommittee hearing urged lawmakers to help states build interoperable prescription drug monitoring systems aimed at reducing prescription drug misuse, C-SPAN reports.
The hearing was held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on commerce, manufacturing and trade (C-SPAN, 3/1).
Current State of Rx Tracking Systems
During the hearing, Gil Kerlikowske -- director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy -- said that prescription drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. (Tate, McClatchy DC, 3/1).
According to Kerlikowske, 40 states currently operate prescription drug monitoring programs to help law enforcement officials track the use of controlled substances. However, he added that many state programs need improvements to be able to provide real-time data and exchange information with other states.
Kerlikowske said the best way to address the problem would be to create a national prescription drug monitoring database that would be accessible to all U.S. health care providers. However, he added that such a system would take years to develop and would raise patient privacy concerns.
Experts Call for Interoperable State Rx Drug Tracking Systems
As an alternative to a nationwide system, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway (D) called for Congress and the Office of National Drug Control Policy to create a grant program that would:
- Help all states create an electronic prescription drug monitoring system; and
- Provide software upgrades so statewide systems could communicate with each other.
When asked about whether Congress should mandate standards for state prescription drug monitoring systems to facilitate interoperability, Joseph Rannazzisi -- deputy assistant administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration -- said, "I'd love to see that, because I want doctors to have that additional tool" (Ethridge, CQ HealthBeat, 3/1).