Many states around the country have state prescription drug monitoring programs that monitor prescription drug use. The systems help keep track of abuse and illegal prescription drug use. California's prescription drug monitoring program is the oldest and longest running drug tracking system in the country, but it faces hard times as state funding for the program is cut.
California's prescription drug monitoring program has existed since 1939 and went online in 1998. Physicians can use the system to see whether their patients have filled their prescriptions in the state. The drug tracking system can also help determine whether a patient is trying to find additional pain pills beyond an initial prescription for pain killers.
Last year, California Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement which managed the prescription drug monitoring program for budget reasons. Today the system, with 200 million entries, is managed by one person and relies on grants from non-state sources as other states across the country expand their prescription drug monitoring programs.
The funding issue for California's prescription drug monitoring program also comes at a time when sales of painkillers continue to rise skyward. Figures from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration show substantial increases in the distribution of oxycodone over the last decade, and last year pharmacies dispensed 69 tons of oxycodone and 42 tons of hydrocodone.
The sale of painkillers is partly driven by an aging U.S. population, a greater willingness among doctors to treat pain and users who become addicted and doctor shop to sustain their source of prescription drugs.
The growth in demand of painkillers has exposed the shortcomings in state drug monitoring programs. Patients who are addicted and flagged by one state's system can often obtain painkillers in another state because state monitoring systems are not linked together. There is also no federal monitoring program.
Source: wbur.org, "Calif.'s Prescription-Drug Monitoring System Feels Pain From Budget Cuts," Sarah Varney, April 10, 2012
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