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January 26, 2011

Bullock, Berry joined by Strong Coalition Introducing Montana Patient Safety Act

Misuse of prescription drugs are contributing factor in the deaths of more than 300 Montanans annually

HELENA – Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock and State Representative Tom Berry (R-Roundup) were joined by doctors, pharmacists, patient advocates and others in introducing House Bill 83, the Montana Patient Safety Act, to the House Human Services Committee Wednesday.

If passed, HB 83 would create a drug registry of prescriptions filled in Montana that prescribers and pharmacists can reference when writing or filling prescriptions to verify their patients’ medication histories. The registry is an important tool that can help healthcare providers make the best treatment decisions for their patients, supporters said. The Schedule II-V drugs included in the registry would include potentially addictive medications like Vicodin, Fentanyl, OxyContin, Xanax and Ritalin. These are the drugs that claim the most lives in Montana, and are most apt to be illegally diverted and resold on the street. In his testimony, Bullock noted that the misuse of prescription drugs is a factor in the deaths of over 300 Montanans annually – more than highway crashes, cocaine, heroin and meth, combined. “At a high school in Billings, I first heard the term “Skittle Parties,” where kids bring different drugs they get from home, put them in a big bowl, and everyone takes a small handful,” Bullock said. “We need a prescription drug registry to help keep these important, powerful drugs where they belong — in the hands of the people who need them, whose lives are improved or at least made bearable by such drugs — not destroyed.” “We have paid a lot of attention to cost-saving measures and policies that help employers do business in Montana,” Berry added. “This prescription drug registry will prevent drug diversion early on, and allow the state, local governments, insurance companies and employers to all save money. But this isn’t primarily a money-saving tool. As you have heard today, it is a life-saving tool.” Supporters said something must be done to reduce drug abuse and diversion in Montana. A prescription registry would ensure that patients who truly need prescription medications get them, while preventing pill-seekers from obtaining drugs, they said. Benefits of a Prescription Drug Registry

  • Drug Abuse & Diversion Prevention: A prescription drug registry will deter those who would otherwise misuse or sell these drugs.
  • Improved Patient Care: Doctors can use information from the registry to supplement patient evaluations and confirm their patients’ medical histories.
  • Early Intervention: Healthcare providers may use the registry to help identify patients in need of substance abuse treatment in the earliest stages of misuse or addiction.
  • Public Health Initiative: Public health officials can use statistics from the registry, with personal information removed, to monitor trends and address prescribing problems.

As of January 2011…

  • 43 states have passed legislation authorizing prescription drug registries.
  • Registries are fully operational in 34 states.
  • All 4 states surrounding Montana have prescription drug registries.

The Invisible Epidemic

  • Prescription drugs are now the 2nd most commonly abused illicit substance, behind only marijuana.
  • Prescription drugs are the drugs of choice for 12-13 year olds.
  • In Montana, prescription drugs contribute to over 300 deaths each year.
  • Montana teens have the 3rd highest rate of prescription pain-killer abuse, with 10% reporting past-month, non-medical use of these powerful drugs.
  • Nationwide, prescription drug abuse costs public and private insurers $72.5 billion annually.
  • One third of Montanans know someone personally who has had a problem with prescription drug abuse.

The Montana prescription drug registry will be compliant with the federal medical privacy act, HIPAA. The information in the registry will only be released to law enforcement with an investigative subpoena that complies with HIPAA. House Bill 83 is supported by The American Academy of Pain Management, The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana, CSKT Tribal Health Department Head Kevin Howlett, New West Health Services, Montana Board of Crime Control, the Montana Department of Justice, the Montana Medical Association, the Montana Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Montana Pain Initiative, the Montana Nurses Association and the Montana Pharmacy Association.