Pa. monitoring program to flag drug sales may curb overdose deaths
By The Associated Press
Published: Sunday, March 3, 2013, 7:45 p.m.
WASHINGTON, Pa. — State lawmakers, spurred by a rise in prescription drug overdose deaths, are considering a monitoring effort aimed at preventing people from other states who are addicted to narcotic painkillers from obtaining the drugs in Pennsylvania.
Canonsburg pharmacist Gerald O'Hare told The (Washington) Observer-Reporter that he refused to fill five such prescriptions on Friday in his Jeffrey's Drugstore, suspecting people were trying to use cash to get illegal supplies of the drugs.
He said he does not have that problem at a pharmacy he owns in Ohio because the state runs prescriptions through a computerized central monitoring program to identify physicians and customers who abuse the system.
“The dealers are moving out. Now pharmacies are seeing these customers with all kinds of sob stories from Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee,” said Rep. Brandon Neuman, D-North Strabane, who said he wants to amend state law to help prevent addicts from easily using cash to get narcotics by traveling to different physicians and pharmacies in the state.
State House lawmakers have forwarded from committee for a final vote on the floor a measure to set up a Pennsylvania Accountability Monitoring System database that would flag patients or customers who have received an adequate supply of Schedule II drugs containing opiates or synthetic opiates.
Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone said the law would be a major tool in preventing the illegal use of such drugs as OxyContin. He said his office has made prescription drug abuse a priority, given the high number of local overdose deaths.
Coroner Tim Warco said he investigated 40 overdose deaths last year in Washington County, 17 of them involving the use of opiates. There were 46 overdose deaths in the previous year, while 28 people died in that fashion in 2003 and just two in 1992.
Vittone called those figures “off the charts,” because statistics from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration would indicate that for its population Washington County should host only half as many such deaths a year.
Prescription drug abuse has fueled a rise in heroin trafficking, because people who cannot afford the price of OxyContin turn to heroin as a cheaper alternative, Vittone said.
Kentucky's problem of dealers and addicts getting such drugs by “doctor shopping” was “eliminated almost immediately” after that state in July put in a monitoring system like the one being considered in Harrisburg, he said.
The Westmoreland County Coroner's Office said it investigated a record 71 drug overdose deaths last year and has probed 16 such cases in the first six weeks of this year — with five of them in one week's time.
Greene County Coroner Gregory Rohanna does not keep cause-of-death records but “obviously, I see more (overdose deaths) now than I did 10 or 15 years ago.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pennsylvania leaders expect pope may visit Philly in 2015
- Retired Pa. Game Commission chief to get $220K severance payment
- Adams County bar gets 1st small-games license
- Penn State President-designate Barron seeks refocus
- LCB marketing director to leave
- Sources: McQueary told players he was abused as boy
- Pope Francis’ civil union stance has its defenders
- Greene County proposes more than $200,000 for Brave sewage plant rehab