State prescription drug monitoring program waiting on grant funding
New Hampshire officials are hoping to hear in the next two weeks whether the state will receive $400,000 in federal aid to establish a prescription monitoring program intended to cut down on drug abuse and dealing.
“We have a very good application, and we have every reason to be optimistic,” said Jay Queenan, executive director of the state Board of Pharmacy, which will oversee the program when it launches.
The program, which Queenan said could be operational next summer, would be the 49th prescription drug monitoring system in the country. Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts all have monitoring programs, designed to stop the practice known as “doctor shopping,” in which a patient could visit several physicians and fill a prescription from each at a different pharmacist before abusing or selling the drugs.
The Legislature debated such a program five times since 2005 before authorizing it in 2012. The law forbids the use of state general funds to establish or run the program. Work so far has been handled by volunteers and a part-time staffer paid with a $15,500 grant.
Receiving the federal grant – officially the Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program grant – would allow officials to request proposals from vendors, design the online database and operate the program for two years.
Already under discussion are options for financing the program after the grant expires. These include a fee from medical providers who use the program as well as funding from “entities that profit from the sale of controlled substances,” including pharmaceutical manufacturers.
The state applied for the federal grant last year, though the advisory council overseeing the program had time to meet only once before the application deadline, said Johanna Houman, who manages grants for the state attorney general’s office.
‘Just weren’t ready’
“Last year we just weren’t ready. The application said, we don’t have rules, we haven’t had time, but we’ll do that eventually,” Houman said. “This year, the advisory council has been meeting for a year, we’re really ready to present to the state. We’re in a really good position to hit the ground running when the money’s in the bank.”
What will the program look like when it begins?
Practitioners – anyone from doctors to dentists and even veterinarians – who are authorized to prescribe controlled drugs will have access to a secure website, where they will enter data about their patients and prescriptions.
Pharmacists will have access to the same site and will be able to review a customer’s prescription history.
Patients will be able to request their own information from the database; the police will be able to access information only with a court order.
Pharmacists are mandated to submit information every week, while physicians are required only to register for the program.
“The actual use of the program, a physician’s decision to look up a patient, that’s optional,” Queenan said.
“A prescription drug monitoring program is simply a tool to assist a physician or pharmacist in treating their patient. It’s not the end all in treating drug misuse or abuse. It can highlight concerning patterns and allow the providers to identify problems sooner than they would otherwise and develop a treatment plan accordingly,” he said.
The program will track dispensing of such drugs as Dilaudid, Demerol, Oxycodone, OxyContin, Percocet, Fentanyl, Vicodin, Tylenol with codeine, Xanax, Clonazepam, Valium, Lorazepam and Restoril.
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or
firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)