Eau Claire (WQOW) - A new Wisconsin law will require medical professionals to review a patient's history of controlled substances before prescribing more than a three-day supply starting in April 2017.
In 2015, more people died from drug overdoses than car crashes in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The new requirement is an effort to lower those numbers. It comes as part of the Heroin, Opiate, Prevention and Education (HOPE) agenda lead by Wisconsin Representative John Nygren, whose daughter was almost killed by a drug overdose.
Dr. Paul Horvath, medical director of emergency care at Mayo Clinic Health System, said the new law could be a great way to start curbing opiate addiction in the state.
"Unfortunately, we know that a lot of opiate abuse begins with opiates prescribed for legitimate medical purposes, and then spirals into a bad place from there," Horvath said.
Horvath said the database for finding a patient's prescription history, the Wisconsin Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, is not new, but before the requirement, it was difficult to add or view patient information, so not everyone used it.
"As this new requirement rolled out, they re-vamped the PDMP database and website, so it is a lot more user-friendly," Horvath said. "It really allows us to ge the data we need to safely prescribe drugs."
The database can also help local law enforcement. Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer said he has asked legislators for this requirement since working undercover with the drug task force in the 1990s.
"We knew that people were what we call, "doctor shopping." They go to one place, get a prescription," Cramer said. "Then they go to, might be Saint Joe's, and then over to Stanley, and then to River Falls. They were all over our area, but we couldn't get enough because of HIPAA and the protection of the patient information to make cases on these people who truly had an addiction."
Law enforcement said the website still follows HIPPA regulations and could be used to track and help treat those who abuse opioids. Officers can even add notes on a patient's profile if he/she has a history of drug abuse.
"We are hoping that some of these people who have this opioid addiction, start sitting down with their family, physicians, and professionals for getting help for that addiction," Cramer said. "Our problem is not with the doctors, but we want to give them the tools they need to they can adequately supply an individual with the appropriate painkiller."
Prescribers hope the database will help them hack into a solution for opioid abuse.
"The goal here is not to cut anybody off," Horvath said. "It is not to stop anybody from getting the drugs they need. It is a tool designed to get prescribers information we need to prescribe safely. I suspect now that there is an extra step in that prescribing practice, that some prescribers are going to have some hesitation. Over time, prescribing practices may change a bit, moving away from such ubiquitous access to controlled substances, and narcotics in particular."
Cramer said another way to prevent opioid abuse is to safely get rid of any unused prescription drugs that could fall into the wrong hands. There are prescription drug disposal bins in the lobby of the Eau Claire County Law Enforcement Center. Cramer said each year, the department collects about 1,200 pounds of drugs on National Drug Take-Back day in September.
As opioid abuse continues to rise in Eau Claire County, the City-County Health Department said it received a $50,000 grant to help combat the problem. The health department hopes to use the grant for four strategies. The first is to have a media campaign to create general awareness for what resources exist. The second is outreach events like drug take-back days hosted by law enforcement. The department also hopes to support drug-recognition expert training among officers. Their final step is to promote mindful prescribing practices among medical professionals.