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Oklahoma health leaders criticize doctor groups who oppose prescription drug bill

Oklahoma physicians are being “selfish and short-sighted” by opposing legislation that would require doctors to check an online database each time they write a prescription for narcotic painkillers and other controlled dangerous substances, health leaders said Friday.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: May 18, 2014

Oklahoma physicians are being “selfish and short-sighted” by opposing legislation that would require doctors to check an online database each time they write a prescription for narcotic painkillers and other controlled dangerous substances, health leaders said Friday.

A coalition of nine physician groups announced on Thursday that they had reached an impasse over legislation that would require them to check the state’s prescription drug monitoring program when writing prescriptions for some of the most abused drugs in Oklahoma.

That announcement prompted a fierce response from Terry Cline, the state’s health commissioner, and Terri White, the state’s mental health and substance abuse commissioner, who denounced the physician groups for digging in their heels.

“The fact that any medical association would oppose prescription monitoring and mandatory checks of commonly abused medications quite frankly makes no sense, and amounts to actively opposing policies that are proven to save lives,” White and Cline said in a joint news release.

“This is a problem that the governor and multiple state agencies have committed themselves to solving. We are baffled that any professional medical association would resist a measure that clearly improves health care.”

Senate Bill 1820 is intended to address a prescription drug overdose crisis that claimed the lives of 534 Oklahomans in 2012. At least half of the people who died took drugs they were prescribed by their own doctors, according to state Health Department data.

The bill, backed by Gov. Mary Fallin’s office, would require doctors, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses and other prescribers to check the state’s prescription drug registry before writing new or refill prescriptions for Schedule II and Schedule III controlled dangerous substances. That would include prescriptions for some of the most abused and most prescribed drugs in the state.

According to data provided by the state Health Department, Oklahoma ranks in the top five nationally for per capita sales of hydrocodone and morphine, and No. 2 in the nation for the sale of Demerol and fentanyl. All are powerful painkillers.

White said with the high rate of prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths in Oklahoma, it’s puzzling why the legislation to mandate prescription checks has become such a contentious issue.

“The bottom line is that we are trying to save lives and do what is right for health care in our state,” White said. “This is something that benefits the people of Oklahoma and we should not be concerned that a physician, or their staff, may be required to take a few extra minutes to check an online database.”

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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