The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

September 26, 2013

Measure gives doctors access to patients’ drug use history

HARRISBURG — The House Health Committee has approved legislation to expand Pennsylvania’s prescription drug tracking program to allow doctors to review a patient’s drug use history. Now only law enforcement officials have access to this private medical information.

The measure also adds several drugs such as steroids, valium and Xanax as well as common cold medicine Robitussin to highly addictive drugs such as cocaine, morphine and oxycodone.

Sponsors say the purpose of the bill is to prevent drug abuse, doctor shopping and prescription drug trafficking. The Pennsylvania Medical Society sees the legislation as helping doctors make sure they are giving medication to people who really need it.

“The bill we would like to see when it’s final would be used primarily as a tool for physicians to do the best job they can to avoid being scammed (into giving prescriptions to people faking ailments) and to help patients receive the care they need,” said Chuck Moran, a spokesman for the medical society.

Creating a database that is accessible to doctors across the state would be helpful even in cases where there is no attempt to fraudulently obtain drugs, said Moran. In many cases, he said, people turn up in the emergency room unable to describe what medications they are taking. The database would quickly make the information available, he added.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania objects to the legislation on the grounds it could violate patients’ privacy.

“The privacy of the child who breaks his arm on his bike or who takes attention deficit medication is being sacrificed because someone across town is abusing these substances,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the Pennsylvania ACLU.

Andy Hoover, the group’s legislative director, added that “in these days of mass data collection by the NSA (National Security Administration), it’s hard to believe that any government official would propose more monitoring of our daily lives.”

In 2009, a hacker compromised a similar prescription surveillance program in Virginia, exposing the personal information of 8 million Virginians, the ACLU officials said.

Pennsylvania currently pays $120,000 annually to an Ohio company to manage the prescription drug database for the state Attorney General’s office. The company receives monthly reports from pharmacies about prescriptions of Schedule II drugs or those most likely to be addictive, such as cocaine and morphine.

Joe Peters, a spokesman for Attorney General Kathleen Kane, said that the existing database has been effective in helping investigators crack prescription drug rings. In some cases, people fraudulently seek prescription medicine for their own use. But, she said, increasingly police are encountering cases where the drugs are being resold to addicts.

Earlier this year, the attorney general announced that investigators had nailed participants in two competing prescription drug trafficking organizations that were flooding the Poconos with oxycodone. Prosecutors allege that a doctor in New York was issuing prescriptions to ring members, writing out more than 500 drug orders in 100 different names. Prosecutors say that the ring distributed more than 70,000 pills with an estimated street value of $2.1 million.

According to agents, the demand for oxycodone in northeastern Pennsylvania was so high that many pharmacies ran out of the drug or refused to fill prescriptions.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • new councilman Judge fills City Council vacancy

    A lifelong Johnstown resident who has never sought election to public office was named Thursday to fill the vacancy on City Council.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cawley Lt. Gov. Cawley pushes jobs plan during Johnstown visit

    Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley got to see firsthand many of the training tools used by Hiram G. Andrews Center students on Thursday and took some time to promote a program called Jobs for All, part of Gov. Tom Corbett’s JOBS1st PA agenda.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • home VIDEO | Volunteers ‘blitz build’ replacement home for Upper Yoder man

    One week ago, Joey Varmecky had almost nothing.
    In October, a flue fire claimed his Swank Street home. That night, Varmecky, a deaf and partially blind man who doesn’t speak, showed up on the doorstep of his friend’s home. His feet were covered only by a pair of stockings.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Toomey & Shuster Bill would help identify unclaimed remains of veterans

    The cremated remains of an estimated 47,000 veterans are stored throughout the United States, sometimes in nothing more than nondescript metal canisters on shelves.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • million Lucky Seward man finds ticket to riches

    People often play the lottery and dream about the things they would do if they won the big one.
    That dream came true for Karl Kadi of Seward, who won $1 million on a $20 Max-A-Million scratch-off lottery ticket.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Farrish, James State police make another drug bust on turnpike

    A Pittsburgh man was jailed Thursday after state police said they found about $120,000 in suspected heroin during a traffic stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Stonycreek Township, Somerset County.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sisco, Ryan James & John Patrick Two brothers charged in beating at bar

    Two Johnstown brothers were jailed Wednesday after police said they beat a man so badly he suffered a concussion and may end up blind in one eye.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • path of flood Path of Flood entries due

    Anyone interested in participating in Johnstown Area Heritage Association’s  Path of the Flood Historic Half Marathon and 5K race will need to get in gear before the April 30 registration deadline.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drilling fees should fund education, Democrats say

    Democrats running for governor seem to be competing to convince voters they will dip deepest into the pockets of gas drillers to replace $1 billion that Gov. Tom Corbett has cut from education spending.

    April 17, 2014

  • Local briefs 4/18/2014

    April 17, 2014

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads