Considering that Americans consume a huge percentage of the world’s prescription drugs, it’s not surprising that prescription drug abuse — particularly that of opioids and other painkillers — has become one of the more pressing issues in the country’s healthcare industry.
In states such as New Jersey, prescription drug abuse and addiction has become a serious problem, leading to countless fatal overdoses on illegal drugs. As a recent Business Insider article explains, when patients become addicted to painkillers after receiving a prescription legally, they either have trouble finding a continuous supply of the drug or they build up too much tolerance and seek a stronger variation of common painkillers: heroin.
Although many people will argue that the War on Drugs (which previously focused more on illegal drug use during the 1990s) has led to increased prescription drug abuse, in the case of opioid painkillers, it’s clear that legal prescriptions often directly lead to more serious drug addictions.
This problem is precisely what the lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to address with a new prescription database, proposed under the bipartisan legislation for the New Jersey Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (NJPMP).
The bill for NJPMP was approved by the state’s Senate on March 16, according to local news source New Jersey 101.5, and was co-sponsored by Sen. Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D) and Sen. Jim Holzapfel (R).
New Jersey’s current prescription drug monitoring program requires that pharmacists submit information to a larger database when a prescription is filled, but the doctors prescribing the drugs are asked to submit similar information voluntarily. Although many doctors state that they try to submit this information whenever possible, many also note that the process is time-consuming and rather ineffective.
Under the new legislation, doctors across the state will be required to check the NJPMP database before writing out prescriptions to treat acute and chronic pain (i.e., whenever they write prescriptions for opioids). Doctors will also be required to check the NJPMP database quarterly if a patient continues to receive prescriptions for the same painkiller (as many patients do when dealing with chronic pain).
Ideally, these new regulations will cut down on the number of patients who turn to multiple doctors for the same prescription after becoming addicted. Additionally, the NJPMP will place the responsibility of prescription painkiller use (and abuse) primarily on those who prescribe the drugs (the doctors), rather than those who simply follow doctors’ directions (the pharmacists).
“Robust pharmacy POS solutions can go a long way in assisting pharmacies to track who’s picking up the prescription drug at the register. This can be done by scanning a driver’s license and requiring a signature, particularly for controlled prescriptions, or even a controlled OTC, like Pseudoephedrine, to ensure the customer/patient is not exceeding state or federal limits on quantities purchased,” said Mike Gross, VP of Sales and Marketing at Retail Management Solutions.
The NJPMP will be monitored by the Division of Consumer Affairs, and many New Jersey politicians have expressed hope that this program will contribute significantly to a nationwide movement of controlling and reducing prescription drug use and abuse.