PA District Attorneys Hail Rx Drug Database Legislation

October 16, 2014

Urge Governor Corbett to sign lifesaving measure to fight back against Rx and heroin abuse

Harrisburg, PA –Legislation passed today and is headed to the governor’s desk to help health care professionals and law enforcement fight back against the scourge of prescription drug and heroin abuse in Pennsylvania. Once enacted, S.B. 1180 (Vance, R-Cumberland) will move Pennsylvania from having the second weakest monitoring program in the nation to one of the strongest.

“Pennsylvania has had the third highest number of heroin users in the country and, until now, one of the weakest Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP),” said PDAA President and Union County District Attorney D. Peter Johnson. “We urge the governor to sign this bill to help stop the epidemic of addiction and send a strong message to bad doctors and pill mills that they won’t get way with perpetuating this cycle of death.”

Legislation to fight back against prescription drug and heroin abuse has been the PDAA’s top legislative priority this year. Study after study concludes that prescription drug monitoring programs can assist appropriate prescribing, improve medical care, and reduce doctor shopping and its contribution to drug-related deaths. For example, after the inception of Florida’s program, doctor shopping declined 35% in FY 2012. Additionally, controlling heroin addiction and overdoses starts with controlling prescription drug abuse. Almost 80% of those who have recently used heroin started by abusing prescription pain medication.

“Simply put, this legislation will save lives,” said immediate past PDAA President and Cumberland County District Attorney David J. Freed. “There are many legislators who worked long and hard to make sure we achieved the right balance in this legislation between establishing Pennsylvania as a best practice state when it comes to prescription drug databases and the important privacy rights of citizens. Senators Pat Vance and Shirley Kitchen and Representatives Matt Baker and Florindo Fabrizio were all essential in getting it done and getting it done right.”

Privacy restrictions in S.B. 1180 are greater than those in at least 27 other states. Additionally, S.B. 1180 aligns the state’s prescription drug database with best practice recommendations by The Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Law enforcement will have access to data base information only if it obtains a court order. That court order must be obtained for access to Schedules II, IV, and V controlled substances when the requesting law enforcement agency demonstrates that the motion pertains to an individual who is subject of a criminal investigation and there is reasonable suspicion to believe a criminal act has occurred. Most other states only require an active investigation. Penalties for unlawful access and release of information in S.B. 1180 mirror the penalties provided for by HIPPA.

Pennsylvania currently ranks 7th in drug mortality rate nationally, up from fourteenth. In 2011, Pennsylvania had 2,298 drug-related deaths; and in the past five years there were 3,000 heroin or opioid-related deaths. Four out of five recent heroin initiates (79.5%) have previously used prescription pain relievers non-medically.