Pa. Senate Approves Expansion of Prescription Drug Monitoring Database

Following the lead of their counterparts in the Pennsylvania House, the state Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill to create a new statewide prescription drug monitoring program which they hope will curb illicit drug abuse.

State senators voted 47 to 2 on Tuesday afternoon to approve Senate Bill 1180 that will remake the state’s current database which is restricted to access by law enforcement agencies and only limited to certain drugs.

The new and expanded system would be moved out of the Pa. Attorney General’s Office and over to the Pa. Department of Health.

As part of the database, anyone who prescribes a controlled substance would be required to input a set of information including what was prescribed, how much and when, the patient’s information and how they paid for the drug.

Pharmacists and emergency room doctors -- who routinely see patients seeking painkillers -- as well as other physicians and care providers would have access to the information through the new database.

The types of drugs tracked would also be expanded to include substances like anabolic steroids, Xanax and hydrocodeine.

Pennsylvania ranks 14th in the nation for drug overdose deaths, according to information compiled by the Trust for America's Health. Officials have also widely regarded illicit prescription drug use as a gateway to illegal opioids like heroin.

The new database, which is modeled after similar systems in other states like New Jersey, is seen as a way for prescribers to spot potential abuse and doctor shopping.

The Pa. Senate bill follows the passage of a similar bill in the Pa. House of Representatives in November 2013. The legislature will now need to work to bring a combined bill to Governor Tom Corbett’s desk.

Erik Arneson, Communication and Policy Director for Senate majority leader Dominic Pileggi, says the practice is fairly common and he expects lawmakers to get a final bill to the governor by June.

A spokesman for Corbett said the governor supports the expansion of the database and plans on signing the bill into law.

Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.

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