PA launches new database to battle prescription drug abuse

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Pennsylvania is taking another step forward in the battle against prescription drug abuse.

The commonwealth launched a new database for doctors Thursday which will hopefully prevent addicts from “doctor shopping.”

“We have a big problem here in Pennsylvania,” Governor Tom Wolf said.

From a medical center in Philadelphia, Governor Tom Wolf launched the revised Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Thursday.

Doctors can now put a patient’s name into a statewide database to find out if they have been prescribed narcotics anywhere else in the commonwealth.

“Doctors want to do what is best for their patients and we’re just doing, as a state, to help you do just that,” Governor Wolf said.

The new database is being welcomed locally by medical professionals and facilities, including the Geisinger Health System.

“From 2014 to 2015, we saw an increase from 2,500 to 3,500 deaths in Pennsylvania from unintentional opioid overdose. That is tragic. That’s ten people a day,” Richard Huntington, MD, from the Geisinger Kistler Clinic said.

While Dr. Richard Huntington says the database is a big step forward, he says even more changes are needed.

For example, the database only shows prescriptions written in Pennsylvania.

“Our database still doesn’t talk to any other databases and we have patients who are right over the border in New York and New Jersey,” Dr. Huntington said.

Mike Ossont heads the drug unit for the Lackawanna County District Attorney’s Office.

He says an addict might go to a family doctor, an urgent care center and even an emergency room all in the same week trying to see who will give them painkillers.

He’s hoping the new database will help prevent “doctor shopping.”

“Doctor A at this point doesn’t realize what Doctor B is prescribing. With this database, they’ll be able to see if Doctor B has prescribed that same medication and not over-prescribe the medication to one patient,” Ossont said.

Pennsylvania’s prior database was only available to law enforcement.

The commonwealth becomes the 49th state to provide this type of database access for doctors, pharmacists and medical professionals.

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