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Legislature Tables Prescription Drug Program

Once again, our legislature has delayed action on getting a prescription drug monitoring program up and running in the state. The legislation, LB 535 has been stuck in the Health and Human Services Committee since it was referred there back in January of this year.

The bill authorizes a program which requires reporting of information on patients, doctors, and the drugs dispensed so that the Department of Health can monitor prescription drug use for addictive substances as well as, “additional drugs identified by the department as demonstrating a potential for abuse.”

The purpose of the legislation is to prevent “doctor shopping” where a patient goes to multiple doctors for treatment and gets multiple prescriptions for pain medications (or other addictive drugs). It also can be used to show when a particular doctor is dispensing narcotics in excessive amounts – so called “pill mills.”

The reporting requirements are a main area of dispute and, as drafted, the bill requires the following information:

ID of dispenser;
Date and prescription number;
New or refill information, drug code, quantity dispensed and refills remaining;
Patient name, address, date of birth, and gender;
Doctor’s information (ID number), and date of prescription;
Information on who picked up the prescription (if other than the named patient);
How the prescription was paid for.

To some, this list represents a violation of privacy and an intrusion by the state into the personal affairs of patients. But as always, catching those who misuse the system necessarily puts a burden on those who do not.

Other concerns are about the cost of any such system, even though pharmacies already maintain electronic records on patients that have all the needed information.

The legislation mirrors laws passed in other states, many of which waited until prescription drug abuse had become a problem of epidemic proportions before acting. It is unknown whether Nebraska will do the same – the bill remains in committee.

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