DiGirolamo Applauds House Passage of Prescription Drug Monitoring Program
HARRISBURG – In his continuing fight to help protect people from the dangers of addiction or to ensure they receive treatment, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) this week applauded House passage of legislation to create a prescription drug monitoring program.

“Pennsylvania is one of just a couple of states that does not have a program to monitor highly addictive prescription drugs with the intent to save lives and get people the help they need,” said DiGirolamo, a long-time advocate for drug and alcohol abuse prevention, education and treatment. “Currently, the only program we have is for law enforcement purposes only. While that is helpful in shutting down ‘pill mills,’ physicians and pharmacists need more tools to pinpoint an addiction and get people the help they need before it’s too late.” 

House Bill 1694 would establish a confidential prescription drug monitoring database for professionals who prescribe or dispense prescription medication. The new program would replace the attorney general’s existing Schedule II database, which only tracks a very narrow category of prescription drugs and does not make any information collected accessible to doctors and pharmacists.

The legislation would track the filling of Schedules II through V that will be a great help to doctors, pharmacists and law enforcement to improve patient care and prescribing practices, help uncover drug diversion, identify “doctor shopping” and provide training for health care professionals in prevention, identification of drug problems and referral when appropriate.

To view DiGirolamo’s comments about the legislation on the floor of the state House, click on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07irQDaI8Lo&feature=c4-overview&list=UUx_jF6JdjNd7lTNf1jSxLUQ  

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription drugs are the second-most abused category of drugs in the United States, following marijuana. New studies revealed that Pennsylvania ranks ninth in the nation in the number of drug overdose deaths, most of which involved prescription drugs, and there has been an 89 percent increase in the number of such deaths since 1999. In fact, drug overdoses now surpass the number of deaths each year from automobile crashes in Pennsylvania.

“Sadly, the number of prescription drug overdoses right here in Bensalem has skyrocketed within the past couple of months,” DiGirolamo said, noting that the township police department has referred to prescription drug abuse as one of the biggest problems facing police today. “Bensalem police recorded 63 overdoses alone in the township in September, and between 80 percent and 90 percent of crimes committed in the township are drug-related. Drug abuse is an epidemic that only continues to grow, and this database is just one of the important tools we can use to help stop it in its tracks.”

Nearly all 50 states at this point have in place some type of prescription drug monitoring system that will eventually lead to the sharing of information across state borders, which will enhance tracking of those who live along the borders who may use doctors and pharmacies in two states to feed their prescription drug habit.

Under the bill, the database would be maintained by the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. In order to better ensure patient confidentiality is preserved, anyone obtaining or attempting to obtain information from the database through misrepresentation or fraud or for an unauthorized purpose, or anyone knowingly, intentionally or negligently releasing or using information from the database, would face a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 90 days imprisonment and/or a fine of up to not less than $5,000.

House Bill 1694 now heads to the state Senate for consideration. It has the support of nearly 30 different stakeholders, including the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, the Pennsylvania Medical Society, the Office of Pennsylvania Attorney General, the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Coroners Association, the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association, the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians, the Pennsylvania Association of Chain Drug Stores, and the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania.

In addition to this legislation, DiGirolamo has authored a House resolution calling on the Office of Attorney General to investigate the financial impact of this proliferation, which includes the costs to the emergency health care, criminal justice, law enforcement and addiction treatment systems.

Representative Gene DiGirolamo
18th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jennifer Keaton
GeneDiGirolamo.com / Facebook.com/GeneDiGirolamo