Doctors should be required to check a national registry before prescribing opioid medications if the United States is going to stop rising rates of painkiller abuse and fatal overdoses, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Tuesday.
The Minnesota Democrat spoke at the Hazelden Betty Ford treatment center in St. Paul to generate support for her bill to create a mandatory national prescription monitoring program. Minnesota is among the states where doctors can voluntarily participate in an opioid registry, but Klobuchar said that could leave some excessive prescribers undetected and added that other state systems aren’t as complete in their drug dispensing data.
“You can say you have (a monitoring system), but if you’re not putting in the prescriptions, what good is it?” she asked.
Prescription monitoring programs aim to identify and retrain doctors who overprescribe opioids, and to identify patients who “shop” for painkillers among multiple doctors.
Opioid misuse has become the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. Opioids are highly addictive and often starter drugs for people who later abuse heroin and other painkillers.
Klobuchar mentioned the case of a Moorhead man who got opioid prescriptions from 85 doctors.
Minnesota’s voluntary system currently is used by 40 percent to 50 percent of the state’s medical and dental prescribers and dispensing pharmacists, said Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy.
Next year, it will require all prescribers to at least register with the online reporting system, though they won’t be required to actually use it to check on their prescriptions or on suspicious patients.
The Minnesota Medical Association favors this approach, said spokesman Dan Hauser, because mandatory use of the system would place an excessive burden on doctors who rarely prescribe the drugs.
Klobuchar said doctors were coaxed into heavy prescribing of opioids over the past years by pharmaceutical company marketing and a widely adopted pain scale that made pain a vital sign that demanded treatment. Now she challenged doctors to be part of the solution.
“We know the problem is here,” she said, “and we know what needs to be done.”