Montana News

Apr 26, 2013 3:15 PM by Melissa Anderson (Helena)

Montana prescription drug registry earns high marks in first year

HELENA - It's been in effect less than a year, but Montana's new drug registry program is already said to be cutting down on illicit prescriptions.

"Deaths from prescription drugs are outnumbering homicides, and car accidents. It's a dramatic statistic. And so the hope is that this tool will help to decrease some of those numbers," said St. Peter's Hospital pharmacist Starla Blank.

It's said that one person dies each day in Montana due to a prescription drug overdose.

The highly addictive opiate drugs in demand are all used to kill pain; "Anything with an opioid base like morphine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, what we call narcotics," explained Blank.

Spearheaded in the 2011 Legislature by then Attorney General and now Governor Steve Bullock, Montana's prescription drug registry is helping to curb addictions of those searching for controlled substances.

"I've heard from doctors who say this is making a difference." explained Bullock.

The new on-line database allows doctors and pharmacies to track prescription drugs in Montana, one patient at a time.

Emergency room physicians are among those who use the register on a daily basis.

"We want to be able to treat people who need treatment for their pain. We also want to be able to sort out who might have a problem with addiction and who might be taking these medicines and diverting them, selling them on the street and contributing to the problem," said physician Bill Gallea of St. Peter's Hospital.

With a database of more than two million prescriptions drugs, the registry tool allows licensed professionals to search their patients' history.

"They can see everything that was dispensed for that person within a given time frame. We will eventually have as much as three years worth of data in our system." said Drug Registry Program Manager Donna Peterson.

The new drug registry program may be a red flag for those who may be doctor shopping, and has cut down on the number of false or forged prescriptions.

"I believe we're seeing less doctor shopping because people know we have the registry and it will give us a clue as to what's occurring," said Gallea.

Blank noted, "From the hospital pharmacy perspective we've seen probably less prescriptions presented to us at our pharmacy window and that's because our emergency department practitioners are actively using the registry and they are addressing the problem frequently down in the emergency room before it ever comes to the pharmacy."

Supporters of the new system are hoping it will save lives and cut down on the number of prescription addictions; Bullock said, "These drugs ought to be saving lives, not ending them, and I think communities are making change now."

"The hope is that the cycle of abuse if it is, can be stopped sooner rather than later and people can get the help that they need," said Blank.

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