Should New Hampshire continue the prescription monitoring program?
By: LFDA EditorSB 286
, proposed in January 2012 by Wolfeboro Republican Sen. Jeb Bradley
, was signed by Gov. Lynch June 11, 2012. The bill established a controlled drug prescription monitoring program funded entirely through "grants, gifts, or user contributions." The program officially launched October 16, 2014.
Prescription drug abuse has become the front line for the “war on drugs” in New Hampshire.
HB 1636, a 2010 measure to stop people from "doctor shopping" in the hunt for addictive prescription drugs, noted that "New Hampshire has seen a 200 percent increase in deaths in the last 10 years from these drugs, primarily Methadone, with prescription drug abuse being the fastest growing form of substance abuse."
But efforts to create the electronic tracking system in New Hampshire failed in 2005, 2007, and 2010, leaving the Granite State as the only state in New England without the ability to track these drugs.
Assistant Attorney General Philip Bradley told Foster's Daily Democrat: "No one is really able to intervene early now because they don't have that information. A prescription monitoring program lets a doctor know that patient is getting their drugs elsewhere and the prescription he's about to write may be a few too many."
In addition to giving health providers access to the information, the legislation allowed access by law enforcement to the information.
The law enforcement piece, in addition to the cost -- estimated at $2.2 to $3.5 million -- caused concern during committee hearings on the measure.
"It needs to be more of a public health tool than a law enforcement tool," Bradley said to Foster's.
SB 286, the bill passed in 2012, still allows for law enforcement access to the information, although only on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, patient information will be deleted from the database every six months, with the exception of information about patients suspected to be abusing drugs.
The cost issue was addressed in the bill as follows: "All costs incurred by the board for the implementation and operation of the program shall be supported through grants, gifts, or user contributions." In the event that there is not enough funding for the program, the bill allows the pharmacy board to "curtail, temporarily suspend, or cancel the program."
In September 2013 the state Board of Pharmacy received a $400,000 federal grant to build a prescription monitoring database and operate the program for two years. The prescription monitoring program officially launched October 16, 2014. As of now, there is now plan for funding the program after two years, although an advisory council is considering fee structures for medical providers and/or pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Rep. Amanda Bouldin is the primary sponsor of HB 271, a 2015 bill that increases access to overdose-reversing drugs such as Narcan by allowing doctors to prescribe to friends and family members of addicts. That bill passed the House and Senate was signed by Gov. Hassan.
Sen. Jeb Bradley is the primary sponsor of SB 31, a 2015 bill that makes some changes to the prescription monitoring program, for example to include veterinarians. Gov. Hassan signed that bill in May.
House committees are still studying two 2015 bills that passed the Senate: SB 45 and SB 67. Sen. Andy Sanborn is the primary sponsor of SB 45, which requires an injured worker and his or her health care provider to enter into an opioid treatment agreement outlining the procedures for opioid use under workers’ compensation. Sen. Lou D'Allesandro is the primary sponsor of SB 67, which establishes a committee to study opioid misuse.
That bill passed the Senate and now heads to the House.