Rx Data on Demand

A computer system helps reduce pain-killer abuse.
by | June 2005

Kentucky is trying an electronic solution to a drug-diversion problem.

To cut down on the doctor-shopping and pharmacy-hopping that some people use to stock up on and misuse medicines with controlled substances in them, the state developed a self-service, Web-based system that keeps track of prescriptions for pain pills and other potentially addictive drugs. A pharmacist can tap into the system and see if a prescription holder is hoarding a controlled substance.

Under the previous, paper-based reporting system, Kentucky pharmacists submitted information every two weeks on the narcotics they had dispensed and to whom. When a pharmacist called in about a suspicious prescription, the information on file was not only a few weeks old but took several hours to find and convey. "By and large, it was an after-the-fact determination," says Zach Ramsey, director of the Division of Fraud, Waste and Abuse in the Office of the Inspector General. "Pharmacists could be prepared the next time the person came in, but the damage was done. The drug had left the building."

With the electronic version, information is available within minutes about prescription-holders' drug-purchasing histories and the number of doctors who have given them prescriptions for the specific medications. Doctors also can key into the system to see if someone who comes in complaining about back pain in order to get controlled substances has already been to several other doctors for the same thing.

Ellen Perlman
Ellen Perlman | Former columnist | mailbox@governing.com