Wednesday, January 30, 2002
State's budget problems hurt bill's chances
Lawmakers delay decision on database of drug addicts
Police want a system to help track addicts who pose as patients to get drugs from multiple physicians.
By MICHAEL SLUSS
THE ROANOKE TIMES
RICHMOND -- A legislative committee will wait until next year to determine whether Virginia needs a prescription-monitoring program to curb the abuse of pharmaceutical drugs such as OxyContin.
The House of Delegates Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee decided Tuesday to delay action on legislation (HB 545) authorizing the creation of a computerized database to help police track addicts who pose as patients to get medicine from multiple physicians. The practice, known as "doctor shopping" has been identified as a significant problem by Southwest Virginia law enforcement agencies struggling to deal with crimes linked to abuse of the prescription painkiller OxyContin.
REST But committee members have raised concerns about the program's costs and an array of civil liberties issues and want to study the legislation for another year.
"There are potential problems here," said Del. Harry "Bob" Purkey, R-Virginia Beach, the chairman of a subcommittee that reviewed the bill. Purkey called the measure "the huge Big Brother bill," referring to concerns raised by doctors, drug companies and civil liberties groups that the monitoring program may violate the privacy rights of medical patients.
The bill's sponsor, Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott County, said the state's budget problems also doomed the legislation's prospects for passage this year. Kilgore said the program would cost an estimated $2 million to implement.
"There's no money, and there's no hope of getting any money," Kilgore said.
Creation of a computerized monitoring program was a key recommendation of the state's Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force established last year by former Attorney General Mark Earley. Kilgore's bill would require the state Department of Health Professions to establish the program and to notify the attorney general's office or city and county prosecutors of possible criminal activity by drug buyers, doctors and pharmacists.
Kilgore said the monitoring program is essential to stop "doctor shoppers" the term used to describe addicts who pose as patients to get drugs from multiple physicians. Kentucky already has a similar program established to combat OxyContin addiction, Kilgore said.
"It's critical to be able to tell who's doing that and how often they're doing it," said Kilgore, the twin brother of Attorney General Jerry Kilgore.
Kilgore said the task force and the attorney general's office will submit the legislation again next year.