Should New Hampshire institute a 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 will establish a controlled drug prescription monitoring program funded entirely through "grants, gifts, or user contributions." The New Hampshire pharmacy board will oversee the implementation of the program.
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 2010 -- as it did in 2005 and 2007 -- leaving the Granite State as the only state in New England without the ability to track these drugs, and only one of 11 states in the entire country without such a program.
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 -- tabbed at about $2.2 to $3.5 million -- was raised as concerns 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."
Now that the Legislature and Governor have approved the prescription monitoring program, debate will most likely center on how the pharmacy board implements the program.
Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) is sponsoring a 2013 bill, SB83, that removes the automatic repeal of the prescription drug monitoring program in 2015, and pushes a performance audit of the program to 2017.