TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senate Health Chairman Joseph F. Vitale to update, expand and improve the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) to protect against patient abuse of addictive prescription medications was approved yesterday by the Assembly.
“Heroin addictions often start with the use of prescription pills, which can be easily obtained through a doctor or pharmacy or in the medicine cabinet. By expanding the monitoring program, we will address this problem at its source. With doctors regularly monitoring their patients’ prescription drug use and pharmacies taking a more proactive approach to identifying issues, we can help protect against the abuse or diversion of addictive medications,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “This is a critical step in the effort to stop addictions from forming, and toward ultimately ending this pervasive problem that is causing so much suffering for families in our state.”
“The heroin and prescription drug problem is affecting residents throughout New Jersey. This bill is part of our effort to stop the cycle of addiction that is taking the lives of young people in our communities,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “The monitoring program has already proven successful. Strengthening the program will make it more effective in helping to identify individuals who are doctor shopping for opiates and prescribers that are operating pill mills in our state. More consistent and widespread monitoring of opioid prescriptions will also help to ensure that people do not get addicted to these pills in the first place.”
The New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program is an electronic system operated by the state to monitor controlled dangerous substances dispensed in outpatient settings. It is available to all licensed healthcare practitioners authorized by the state to prescribe or dispense CDS medications. Currently, 85 percent of New Jersey’s physicians are registered to access the PMP, according to recent data from the Division of Consumer Affairs; however, registration with the PMP does not necessarily mean that a practitioner or pharmacist is regularly referencing the database. The bill (a substitute for S1998 and S2119) would require the Division of Consumer Affairs to automatically register pharmacists and practitioners to participate in the PMP as part of their registration to dispense controlled dangerous substances. Doctors would be required to consult the online database the first time they prescribe a medication of an addictive nature (Schedule II CDS) to a patient for acute and chronic pain, and at least quarterly for patients that continue to receive prescriptions for this type of medication.
Pharmacists would have to check the database before dispensing a Schedule II controlled dangerous substance if there is a reasonable belief the patient may be seeking the prescription for any reason other than the treatment of a medical condition. The measure would also require pharmacy permit holders to submit prescription information to the division every seven days, rather than the current requirement of every 30 days. The Division of Consumer Affairs would be required to evaluate whether any person is obtaining a prescription in a manner indicative of misuse, abuse or diversion, or in a manner that violates state law or regulations, and to respond appropriately.
“The monitoring program is an important tool that can help combat addictions in our state. Most of the state’s doctors are registered to access the program, but we have to make sure they are using it. Cross-checking the database when prescribing medications that are addictive in nature for the first time, and then on a continuous basis, is an effective way to protect against the abuse of prescription drugs by people who are seeking a way to get high, or who may be unaware of the seriousness of the drugs they are being prescribed,” added Weinberg.
“Heroin addiction has increased in recent years and it continues to be a critical problem across our state,” said Senator Vitale. “We are working to tackle the heroin and prescription drug epidemic from a number of angles. Increasing participation in the PMP, which is already available to physicians and pharmacists, is an important way to inform patients of the risks associated with certain medications and to monitor prescriptions for addictive pills.”
The Senate approved the bill earlier this month by a vote of 36-0. The Assembly approved it 74-0. It must come back to the Senate for a final vote before going to the governor’s desk. The law would take effect on the first day of the fourth month following the date of enactment.