Each year, Idaho monitors more than a million drug prescriptions, helping the state track some of the most addictive substances in the pharmaceutical industry.
But Washington, facing a huge budget shortfall last year, canceled the implementation of a similar monitoring program.
The program would have included all prescription drug records from pharmacies across the state, said Jeff Rochon, CEO of the Washington State Pharmacy Association. The list could be viewed by pharmacists, coroners and law enforcement with special access. Though the information would not be available to the public, patients with prescription drug records would have been able to view their own records by request.
“It would allow the state to monitor the use of prescription drugs as well as control the substances themselves,” said Rochon, who called the measure “an important piece of work.”
The program would have also made it possible for pharmacists to ensure patients are not “doctor shopping,” or contacting multiple physicians to get prescriptions for the same medication, said Lisa Hodgson, executive manager at the Washington Department of Health’s Office of Health Professions and Facilities.
“Practitioners could see the whole picture,” Hodgson said.
The program received $668,000 from the state to develop rules before it was shelved, Hodgson said.
Idaho’s program costs about $140,000 a year to maintain; the money comes from sources such as pharmacy-related licensing fees.
Each month, more than a thousand reports are requested about prescriptions, the majority from physicians.
Mark Johnston, executive director of the Idaho Board of Pharmacy, said the system is used as a preventive measure.
“The main purpose for a prescriber or pharmacist is to check the database for a patient to access info and determine if they want to fill or prescribe an order,” he said.
Teresa Anderson, information coordinator for the Idaho Prescription Monitoring Program, said it’s left to the discretion of the physician or pharmacist to fill a prescription order.
In Washington, the idea will be brought before the Legislature again in the upcoming session, Rochon said. “Efforts are under way to revive the program.”