A bill that would require doctors to check their patients’ drug histories before writing narcotic prescriptions was derailed Tuesday by a House committee chairman, but sponsors expressed hope they could keep the issue alive.
The bill, requested by Gov. Mary Fallin, was designed to address a key contributor to Oklahoma’s prescription drug overdose crisis by deterring “doctor-shopping” by patients who fill multiple prescriptions written by different physicians.
Rep. David Derby, chairman of the House Public Health Committee, would not let the bill be heard Tuesday during his panel’s last scheduled meeting before a deadline for committee approval.
Derby said he was concerned about several elements of the bill, including a provision that could allow the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs to fine physicians $2,000 for failing to check the online Prescription Monitoring Program.
“If you’re an emergency room physician and you see a hundred people and you prescribe a hundred different scripts of hydrocodone and you forget to check 10 of those hundred, that’s a $20,000 fine,” said Derby, R-Owasso. “You get into that situation where it could be an abuse of power.”
Sponsors of the monitoring program measure characterized Derby’s opposition as a temporary setback, not a fatal blow. They said they had already identified another bill that could serve as a vehicle for some or all of its provisions.
“The governor’s office is working closely with both the medical community and legislators on this issue,” said Alex Weintz, Fallin’s communications director. “We expect to have a legislative vehicle this session to introduce a workable prescription drug monitoring program that the majority of doctors and lawmakers can support.”
Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, House author of the prescription monitoring legislation, said he was working with Senate author A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie, to address prescription monitoring in a different bill that Griffin is sponsoring in the Senate.
Cox said the governor’s office and the bill’s legislative supporters were close to an agreement with physician groups on compromise language when Derby chose to bottle up the bill in his committee.
“Once we get support from the physician group, which is a powerful lobby out here, it should be easy to pass,” said Cox, an emergency room physician.
Griffin was more cautious, saying she felt confident legislation would be enacted “to be sure that we move in the direction of improving the state’s response to prescription drug abuse.”
“We should be able to come up with some kind of compromise,” she said.
Wes Glinsmann, director of legislative affairs at the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said the association would probably not support a bill that required doctors to check the prescription drug monitoring program during every patient visit.
However, he said the association continues to negotiate with the governor’s office and lawmakers on an an appropriate course of action to combat doctor-shopping and the state’s prescription drug epidemic.
“A lot of it depends on what kind of patient you’re dealing with,” Glinsmann said. “If it’s a first-time patient, I think that could make some sense. We know there are doctor-shoppers out there, but if you’re a physician in a rural community, and you've been treating the same person for 30 years, and you know they’re not a threat, does it makes sense to take time out of the practice and away from other patients for someone who doesn’t pose a risk?”
Glinsmann said under current Oklahoma law, a physician’s staff member cannot check the monitoring system. The association would welcome a change to that part of the law, he said.
“A lot of them don't know that,” he said. “It's kind of an eye-opener when we talk to people. The way the law is currently written, only the person with the prescribing authority is technically allowed to log on.”
As written, the Griffin-Cox bill would require doctors to check the Prescription Monitoring Program database before writing new or refill prescriptions for narcotics such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.
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