HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – In an effort to fight the opioid crisis, Pennsylvania put in place a prescription drug monitoring program. It has been successful, but one man says it has left him in pain.
“I am hurting, he said.
The Harrisburg man did not want to share his identity but wanted to share his story. He says he had hip surgery and when his pain medications were not giving him enough relief after physical therapy, he asked his doctor for stronger medicine.
“The doctor said I will discontinue that [prescription] and I will put you on the next thing. My daughter goes out to the pharmacy and they say it cannot be filled. I call and I am told it is denied because your doctor is not complying with our rules and regulations,” the man said.
The statewide Prescription Drug Monitoring Program started in August 2016. When a doctor writes a prescription for an opioid and the pharmacists fills it, the pharmacist must put that information into a database. Physicians from Pennsylvania and 20 other states can access the database to see which opioids have been prescribed to patients.
The law requires a doctor to check the database before prescribing an opioid. Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine says the program has been successful in the battle against opioid addiction.
“We have decreased opioid prescriptions almost 25 percent in less than three years, and throughout this system, we have virtually eliminated doctor shopping. It is a major success,” Levine said.
Patient Agreement forms have also become more common. They are not required by law, but many physicians use them. A patient must sign the agreement to get the prescription and can include statements like:
– I will keep the medicine safe;
– I will not share this medicine with others;
– I will not sell the pills;
– I will come in for drug testing;
– I will not go to another doctor to get another opioid prescription; and
– I understand I may lose my right to treatment if I break any part of this agreement.
The man who spoke with ABC27 signed a patient agreement and believes it is being wrongfully used against him.
He says in his case, the surgeon prescribed the first medicine. When he went back for a followup with his other doctor and explained he was still in pain, he was told to get rid of the first prescription and then the doctor would write him a new one But to the pharmacist filling the prescription and the insurance company it did not look right. They were not told the first prescription was discarded.
“I think that was a specific issue where they prescribed one and then another,” Levine said. “The [doctor] might then actually have to call the pharmacy about why they are prescribing another opioid so soon.”
That didn’t happen in this man’s case. Instead, he says got a letter from the second doctor saying he violated the agreement he signed since he got a new prescription. He says that doctor knew he got rid of the first medication at her request.
“The only time I have used pain medication is when it has been prescribed to me by I a doctor. I am not addicted. I have not sold them. I have not abused them. I am sitting there going on two weeks with no medication,” he said. “I am paying for her inadequacies and being penalized and it is not fair to me or anyone else.”
In response to patient complaints, the Health Department is launching a patient advocacy program and creating a call center for patients who feel they are being treated unfairly. Levine said it will be in place sometime this year.