Bill Seeks to Limit Doctor Shopping

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Despite relentless efforts of advocates from law enforcement to drug treatment to the medical community — prescription opiate abuse continues to plague Arkansas.

During the last five years, where data is available — overdose deaths have increased 67 percent. Almost 1,000 Arkansans have died over the time period.

“We’re not blaming the doctors for this,” said St. Rep. Kim Hammer, R-Benton. “We just realize that there are people out there that know how to work the system.”

The Arkansas Prescription Drug Monitoring Program was established in 2011 to combat the problem. It includes a database to track prescriptions over more than a dozen states.

Doctors can access the system to determine if patients were recently prescribed drugs, but they are not required to use it.

“I don’t think it’s at the level that we want it to be,” Hammer said.

Hammer recently filed a bill(HB1504) to make use of the database by prescribers mandatory.

“It would be beneficial, I think, to the physicians in order to be able to look and see if someone is manipulating a physician,” Hammer said.  

The bill is getting push-back from some in the the medical community who say the proposal would create time consuming paperwork for doctors.
It is opposed by the Arkansas Medical Society. The organization supports an alternative proposal that allows licensing boards to set requirement for use of the database.

A state advisory committee that tracks the database has voted down recommendations similar to what’s contained in Hammer’s bill.

Numbers from the Arkansas Department of Health show a growing number of doctors are enrolling in the monitoring program, especially among those who most frequently prescribe controlled substances.

Still, just 58 percent of enrolled physicians actually used the database last year.

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