Prescription Drug Registry Endorsed by House Committee, DiGirolamo Reports
HARRISBURG – A proposal aimed at preventing the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs is one step closer to House passage after being reported out of the House Human Services Committee today, said Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks), sponsor of the bill and chairman of the committee.
During a meeting of the House Human Services Committee today, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo holds up an oped, written by three emergency room doctors in Philadelphia, about the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse in Pennsylvania. DiGirolamo’s House Bill 1651, which passed the committee today, would establish a prescription drug database that would help to address growing incidents of doctor and pharmacy shopping and counsel individuals on treatment.

“As we learned from two public hearings we held on this bill during the summer, prescription drug abuse is becoming an epidemic in our state,” DiGirolamo said. “Right now, only law enforcement in our state has the ability to track prescriptions for criminal investigations. That leaves a gaping hole in being able to address prescription drug misuse and abuse from prevention and treatment standpoints. Although this bill won’t cure prescription drug abuse, I’m hopeful it will go a long way in putting a dent in it.”

DiGirolamo’s House Bill 1651 would create a database, to be managed by the new Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, to enable informed and responsible prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances and to reduce diversion and misuse of the drugs of concern. The intent of the bill is to pinpoint the potential for abuse and misuse of prescription drugs and for doctors to counsel their patients for treatment if a problem may be suspected.

Pennsylvania’s rate of overdoses is among the highest in the nation, according to DiGirolamo, and 73 percent of those are opiate-related.

DiGirolamo believes that by creating an online registry of pharmaceutical disbursements, doctors and pharmacists can keep track of dangerous prescription drugs and be alerted if someone is suspected of “doctor shopping” or “pharmacy shopping.” The practice occurs when people seeking drugs go to several doctors or pharmacies who do not know their medical histories and might be more inclined to arbitrarily prescribe medications.

The registry would allow a doctor or pharmacist to look at a secure website to find out if a patient they’re treating or filling a prescription for recently obtained a similar prescription from another doctor or pharmacy.

“This database would not interfere with the legitimate use of prescriptions for those who have obtained written permission from their physicians,” said DiGirolamo, an outspoken advocate for drug treatment and prevention. “This is merely a tool that is necessary to prevent ‘doctor shopping’ and ‘pharmacy shopping’ and to help stop people who are using these tactics to further their destructive drug habit.”

The measure also would encourage treatment for the people who are identified as having an addiction problem and would call for continuing medical education for prescribing health care providers to learn more about identification, referral and treatment of addiction. DiGirolamo also sees cost savings in terms of insurance and Medicaid payments, if addiction is stopped in its tracks.

In total, 47 other states are monitoring prescriptions in some way now, and the U.S. government is likely to support interstate communication in the near future. The bill has language to allow communication among states so Pennsylvania can also help people who live near a border with another state, many of whom seek treatment in the other states near their residence.

The legislation now moves to the House floor for consideration.

State Representative Gene DiGirolamo
18th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Jennifer Keaton