The New Jersey Senate has approved legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Holzapfel (R-10) that is designed to fight the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse.
The legislation, a Senate committee substitute for S-1998 and S-2119, would update the state's Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) to ensure additional scrutiny of prescriptions for certain medications that are frequently abused.
"Too many people have figured out the loopholes in our prescription drug system to get hold of and abuse dangerous painkillers," said Holzapfel. "We cannot ignore that many of the most addictive and abused drugs are dispensed at pharmacies, not purchased on street corners."
The state's PMP, operated by the Division of Consumer Affairs, is part of a nationwide effort to track and control the volume of prescription-dispensed drugs subject to abuse.
The PMP consists of a statewide database that collect prescription data on controlled dangerous substances (CDS) and human growth hormone (HGH) dispensed in outpatient settings in New Jersey and by out-of-state pharmacies dispensing in the state.
Pharmacies are currently required to submit data at lease twice per month to the PMP on prescriptions they fill, including the prescribing physician, patient and name, strength and quantity of the medication dispenses.
Although registration with the PMP is required, accessing the database is currently voluntary for prescribers and physicians prior to prescribing or dispensing medications.
"This legislation strengthens our existing efforts to track the abuse of prescription medications by requiring doctors and pharmacists to consult the PMP when certain dangerous drugs are prescribed and dispensed," said Holzapfel. "Since the program to identify prescription drug abuse exists, we must make sure it is used."
The bill requires a doctor prescribing a Schedule II CDS to a new patient for acute or chronic pain to access the PMP, and to check the PMP at least quarterly thereafter if the patient continues to receive prescriptions for a CDS.
A doctor would not need to check the PMP if the patient has undergone an operation or treatment and less than a 30-day supply of a CDS is prescribed.
The bill requires pharmacists to access the PMP before dispensing a Schedule II CDS to determine if the person receiving the prescription has received other prescriptions that may indicate the misuse, abuse or the diversion of a CDS.
To ensure the PMP contains timely data, pharmacies would be required to submit weekly updates of prescription data to the PMP.
"We've heard of people visiting multiple doctors and pharmacies in a short amount of time to get large quantities of prescription drugs and avoid detection," added Holzapfel. "This bill will prevent that kind of abuse by ensuring that doctors and pharmacists are able to share data with each other and view a person's prescription history in near real time."