Michigan Senate Targets ‘Doctor Shopping’ By Opioid Addicts

By David Eggert, Associated Press

LANSING (AP) – Doctors would be required to check a prescription database before prescribing painkillers and other powerful drugs under legislation approved Thursday by the Michigan Senate in an effort to target “doctor shopping” by addicts.

The seven bills also would limit the amount of opioids that can be prescribed and require a “bona fide” physician-patient relationship to dispense drugs.

The measures, which were sent to the House, are lawmakers’ latest attempt to combat a deadly opioid epidemic in a state with the 10th-highest per-capita rate of opioid pain reliever prescriptions in the country. The House will consider them as early as September after a summer recess.

“We have doctors and pharmacies who are willing to prescribe and fill medications for patients with no medical need and patients actively seeking out these types of doctors to illegally obtain prescription medicine,” said Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, a Lawton Republican and sponsor of two bills. “Michigan currently has a system that tracks prescriptions, but many physicians don’t use it properly, or even at all.”

The proposed requirement for health providers to use the recently upgraded Michigan Automated Prescription System would take effect in 2020, with exceptions for inpatient, hospice and oncology care. The electronic database tracks schedule 2-5 drugs. State officials say improvements to the system have put Michigan at the forefront of prescription drug monitoring technology.

Doctor shoppers are patients who have become addicted to opioids and repeatedly visit physician offices or emergency rooms to get prescriptions. Under the legislation, if doctors did not first obtain and review a patient’s prescription history in the database, they could face disciplinary action — such as being ordered to learn about opioid abuse and ultimately losing their license under some circumstances.

Sen. Patrick Colbeck, a Republican from Wayne County’s Canton Township, was the lone senator to vote against some of the bills.

“I believe that the best way to go off and mitigate the risk of distributing too many opioids to abusers is to control it at its source, control it at the pharmacy and stop getting in between the doctor and the patient,” he said.

Colbeck said the state should better analyze the monitoring database to find “where we have chronic abusers” and “flag those abusers at the point of distribution.”

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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