ShareThis Page

Drug-tracking bill headed to Pa. governor's desk

| Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, 11:21 p.m.

Doctors, pharmacists and law enforcement officials can better track prescription drugs under a bill headed to Gov. Tom Corbett's desk.

“This is going to save a lot of lives in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Rep. Matt Baker, R-Tioga County. “This is going to save lives; it's going to address doctor shopping, it's going to address drug diversion” and address the epidemic of opiate drug use.

The state House approved the proposal 194 to 2 Tuesday. The Senate, which approved the measure in May, expects to sign off on House changes to the bill Wednesday. A spokeswoman for Corbett said he plans to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

The measure by Sen. Patricia Vance, R-Cumberland County, a former registered nurse, would establish an electronic database, administered by the state Department of Health, that tracks prescription medications.

Proponents say the database would put a check on doctors who illegally prescribe such medications and limit the use of illegal drugs. Many prescription addicts later turn to cheaper alternatives, such as heroin, law enforcement and medical experts say.

“There's definitely a correlation between heroin use and prescription drug abuse,” said Christine Cronkright, a spokeswoman for Corbett. “We think this is a very critical piece of legislation to monitor prescription drug use across Pennsylvania.”

The proposal is a piece of Corbett's Healthy PA initiative. Cronkright said they hope the database catches potential problems “before individuals have the time to get addicted and try to curb some of that from the get-go.”

Pharmacists or those dispensing medications would enter information into the system, including details of the patient, the doctor who prescribed the drug and dosage information.

The database would track prescriptions of Schedule II drugs, or those deemed to have a high potential for abuse, such as oxycodone, down to Schedule V drugs, which have a much lower potential for abuse but contain a limited amount of certain narcotics, such as cough medicines with codeine.

Forty-seven states have such programs, according to the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws.

The system would replace a narrower one maintained by the state Attorney General's Office. Patients, doctors, pharmacists, coroners/medical examiners and licensing boards could access the information.

The Office of Attorney General would perform searches for law enforcement officers for Schedule II drugs but would require a court order for searches of lower-level prescriptions. The information could be used to obtain only a search or arrest warrant.

The office could search the records on behalf of a grand jury investigating a violation involving controlled substances.

Opponents, such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, raised privacy concerns, worrying that law enforcement officials can access the prescription drug information too easily and that having so much data in one place opens the system to possible identity theft.

The group believes Schedule V drugs should not be tracked.

“The Drug Enforcement Agency has said the chance of addiction to Schedule V drugs is very low,” Hoover said. “But every kid who gets prescription Robitussin is going to go into this database.”

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.