COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio will make it easier for pharmacists and medical professionals who prescribe drugs to tap into a database meant to prevent abuse of prescription painkillers, Gov. John Kasich announced Monday.
The state is making up to $1.5 million available annually for prescribers to integrate their computer systems with that database, which tracks patients’ prescribing history.
The state created the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System to track the dispensing of controlled substances and monitor suspected abuse. It’s key to the fight in Ohio and elsewhere against doctor shopping in which patients try to obtain drugs from multiple prescribers.
Prescribers and pharmacists can also use OARRS to monitor patients’ prescription history and make sure there aren’t medical red flags raised by multiple prescriptions.
Use of OARRS has grown and helped combat Ohio’s addictions epidemic. The number of prescription painkillers dispensed to patients last year dropped by 5.3 percent, or 40 million doses, compared to 2013, according to Kasich’s office. About 960 people “doctor shopped” last year, down from more than 3,100 in 2009.
But the increased use of OARRS has been hampered by the need for prescribers to log on to another computer program to check information. The funding announced Monday will make a direct link to OARRS available, speeding and streamlining the process.
The change was announced at a Columbus Kroger store, highlighting Kroger’s integration of the database into its pharmacy system at all 226 Ohio stores.
Fatal drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio, a trend that began in 2007 and continues to get worse.
Last year, a record 2,482 people in Ohio died from accidental overdoses, an 18 percent increase over the previous year. That includes a record 1,177 overdose deaths related to heroin, up from 986 in 2013.
The state also faces a new threat from fentanyl, another powerful painkiller being mixed with heroin, often unbeknownst to addicts. Ohio experienced 502 fentanyl-related deaths last year, up from 84 the year before. The drug is 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin.
The challenge is a tough one, Kasich acknowledged.
“The message to Ohioans, despite the fact that we still see a tsunami of drugs, is that we’re not going to give up in this state until we win more and more battles, maybe ultimately the war,” Kasich said.
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