New Drug Monitoring Program

JULY 12, 2016

Georgia Professionals - Keep an Eye on New Drug Monitoring Program

No one will make headlines by claiming that we have a prescription drug problem throughout the country. The issue is already well-known, and solutions to address the problem are myriad. Professionals like doctors and pharmacists are often caught in the middle, sometimes accused of enabling those addicted to these drugs by provided continued access via subscriptions.

Yet, those accusations typically ignore the immense challenges faced by healthcare providers when trying to navigate the complex rules and regulations related to drug monitoring. Luckily, upcoming changes to Georgia monitoring rules will provide more flexibility for professionals and an increase of information on state prescriptions, hopefully leading to a decrease in abuse.

THE PRESCRIPTION DRUG MONITORING PROGRAM (PDMP)

Like virtually all other states, for several years Georgia has had an active state database that monitors prescriptions of certain highly addictive drugs, like oxycodone and hydrocodone. The idea is that the database can raise red flags if suspicious prescriptions are given to a single individual-allowing closer investigation to determine if the patient is abusing the drugs. But the program is not without its flaws.

In Georgia, this Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) is under the purview of the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency, and even the head of the agency admits that there are many gaps in the current program. Critics argue that the current rules are too restrictive, severely limiting who can view the database and handcuffing those individuals from warning others about the information contained in the PDMP.

CHANGES TO THE LAW

The Georgia legislature recently updated the law to address many of those problems. The new rules are set to take effect this month, in July 2016, and it is critical for doctors, pharmacists, and other professionals to understand the changes. Some important updates include:

  • Licensed staff can now view the PDMP. Under older rules, only actual doctors and pharmacists could look at the data. This created a logistical issue, as busy professionals had to leave patients to physically view the files. The task of checking the PDMP to flag for potential addiction can now be given to others within an office.
  • Drug data will be tracked for two years. Previously, data was only tracked for a single year. The increased time frame will provide a larger set of information to help detect more potential problems.
  • Law enforcement will have increased access to the PDMP. In the past, officers were required to have a search warrant to view the data. That requirement was a tough burden that limited when law enforcement agencies could realistically act on the warnings of doctors and pharmacists.

Lawmakers and safety advocate admit that an underlying goal of the new law is also to increase actual use by medical professionals in the state. Early estimates suggest that only about 25% of state doctors have set up an account to use the PDMP. Use of the PDMP is not mandatory, and the new law will not change that. However, the loosening of the restrictions may prompt more medical offices to take advantage of the features.

Contact a Georgia Professional Defense Attorney

If you have questions about how this law may affect your practice, be sure to reach out to legal professionals. Our team at Frances Cullen, P.C. provides experienced defense services and counsel to licensed professionals throughout Georgia in all administrative and criminal matters. Contact us today to see how we can help.