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New TN prescription drug law rings in New Year

8:12 PM, Jan 1, 2013   |    comments
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Tennessee rings in the New Year with a new law aimed at putting a dent in doctor-shopping and prescription drug abuse.

Governor Bill Haslam signed the Prescription Safety Act of 2012 into law in early-May.  However, many of its requirements did not officially take effect until January 1, 2013.  The law requires pharmacists to enter prescription information for frequently abused drugs into a statewide electronic database.

"The hope is to try to cut down on the pill mill operations, the doctor-shopping, the drug-seeking," said David Belew, owner and pharmacist at Belew Drugs in Knoxville.  "The database is not new.  We have been using it for a couple of years.  The change is that pharmacies will now have to enter records every day.  Previously, we were required to report twice a month."

Belew said workers are already in the habit of entering information into the database with minimal effort.

"To submit the report it's two key strokes, three mouse-clicks, and it's done," said Belew.  "Doing it daily, the hope is we get much closer to real-time information than we have had in the past."

The bigger adjustment with the new law will come in a few months for those who write prescriptions.  On April 1, doctors will be required to check the database and monitor their patients' pharmacy activity on the front-end before writing prescriptions for powerful drugs.

"From our perspective it takes a little bit more time. I don't feel that it's a burdensome request though," said Dr. Anthony Wilson at UT Medical Center.  "I'd like to emphasize for sure that we are not trying to keep medications from people who legitimately need those. What we're trying to prevent however is having those medications diverted to people who should not be using them or are using them illegally."

The State Department of Health can issue fines and revoke licenses if doctors and pharmacists do not utilize the database.  Belew said he believes most will gladly do their part to fight a statewide epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

"The effort above and beyond what we are used to doing is minimal. This is something we ought to be able to take care of," said Belew.

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