Massachusetts health officials approved a plan on Aug. 11 that will allow doctors and pharmacists to track narcotics prescriptions online -- a major step toward reducing "doctor shopping" in patients addicted to prescription drugs, officials said.
The Boston Globe reported Aug. 12 that the plan will give doctors and pharmacists access to an online database detailing patients' previous prescriptions for steroids and potent painkillers, such as OxyContin.
An estimated 9,000 Mass. residents are suspected of going from doctor to doctor seeking multiple prescriptions, said Alice Bonner, director of the Mass. Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality.
"It's tough to know when you're prescribing opioids or any controlled substance for chronic pain whether you're doing benefit or harm,'' said Daniel Alford, senior physician at the Clinical Addiction Research and Education (CARE) Unit at Boston University School of Medicine. "The more tools we have to help us to know whether we're benefiting or harming the patient, the better off we are.''
The online prescription monitoring program is set to go into effect early next year. Officials estimate the program will save $2 million a year by detecting patients "doctor shopping" through the state's health insurance program.