State Lawmakers: Close Gaps In Rx Monitoring Program

Dec 3, 2013

State lawmakers are looking at ways to strengthen Rhode Island’s prescription drug monitoring program. They say there are too many gaps in the current system that allow people to abuse prescription drugs.

Monday marked the first meeting for a commission that will examine how to boost Rhode Island’s efforts to track prescriptions for painkillers and other controlled substances. Rhode Island already has a prescription drug monitoring program. Prescribers don’t have to participate, but if they do they can look up every prescription a patient has filled at any pharmacy. And that could help them detect patterns of abuse. But state representative William O’Brien, who convened the commission, says the program doesn’t include data from enough sources and misses prescriptions people might pay for in cash.

“We’re trying to get rid of the loopholes, we’re trying to make it more effective," said O'Brien. "It may not need a completely new bill, but we may need to strengthen parts of it.”

Department of Health director Michael Fine says he agrees there are some gaps in the system, including the fact that data is on a two week delay. That means people who are abusing prescription drugs could have filled many more prescriptions at several pharmacies before the system registered a problem. But Fine says fixing that will take some funding, which he hopes the lawmakers will discuss.

Fine also said the program has run out of money, which originally came from a federal grant. His department continues to operate the program but has not yet identified a long-term source of funding.