Legislation to address Iowa’s deadly opioid epidemic passed the Iowa House today by a wide margin, but lawmakers turned down a Democratic amendment to make it harder to fraudulently acquire prescription painkillers.
The bill will require all doctors to register with the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
The Democratic amendment would have required physicians not just to register but to routinely check the database to make sure a patient isn’t fraudulently getting multiple prescriptions, so-called doctor-shopping.
“If the patient is being prescribed a controlled substance from….ambien to …oxycontin, they would be required on the initial first-time visit with this patient to access the program and see if this patient has been using another physician or another pharmacy,” said Rep. John Forbes (R-West Des Moines), who is a pharmacist by profession.
“I see fraudulent prescriptions brought into my pharmacy because the patient has committed fraud saying they have an issue with pain,” Forbes said. “In most cases these drugs end up in the streets and into our children’s hands.”
Experts say addicts get started on painkillers then turn to heroin with deadly results
Some doctors and pharmacists have opposed mandatory use of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program in the past.
The amendment was turned down on a voice vote.
“It does not ask the prescriber,” said Rep. Shannon Lundgren (R-Peosta), the bill’s sponsor, who urged her colleagues to resist the amendment. “It actually mandates the prescriber.”
Lundgren called the bill a good first step to get more physicians to use the system without requiring them to do so.
An eastern Iowa group known as CRUSH, Community Resources United to Stop Heroin, includes families who have lost loved ones to drug overdoses.
CRUSH favors the mandate language.
“They feel that baby-steps like this bill is not enough to address it,” said Rep. Charles Isenhart (D-Dubuque). “We need to do more, we need to do it faster or we will lose control of the problem.
“This is a full-blown epidemic,” Isenhart added.
Officials say as many as 80 to 90 deaths in Iowa each year are caused by opioid overdose, including heroin and prescription drugs.
Only about 7% of drugs prescribed in Iowa have been checked through the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
CRUSH also backs legislation to encourage anyone witnessing a drug overdose to seek help by granting them immunity from prosecution.