WRAL Investigates

NC has database to track drugs, but it's rarely used

Posted November 8, 2011

WRAL Investigates

— Hydrocodone and oxycodone are two of the most prescribed drugs in North Carolina and two of the most popular among prescription drug addicts.

In 2009, approximately 6.5 million prescriptions that included hydrocodone or oxycodone were written in North Carolina, totaling 345 million pills. The state has a database to track the drugs, but no one is required to use it.

“First and foremost, the patient comes first, and we always want to believe the patient,” said Dr. Jennifer Jo, of Raleigh's Family Medical Associates.

Jo says she also knows that prescription fraud, theft and addiction are problems.

The problem is more deadly in North Carolina than all other illegal street drugs combined. The state is on track to once again surpass 1,000 prescription overdose deaths this year, according to Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Oxycodone NC has database to track drugs, but it's rarely used

Jo says she often turns to the state's controlled substance database, which links doctors, pharmacists and the State Bureau of Investigation, if she suspects a patient is shopping for a doctor to prescribe drugs.

“We see if it matches their story,” she said. “It's a very helpful tool.”

While the system helps weed out fraud, it's incomplete. The WRAL Investigates team found that just 20 percent of the state's drug prescribers registered with the database last year. This year, the number of registrations is up to 26 percent.

Two bills filed in the General Assembly last year would have made it mandatory for prescribers to use the database, but neither passed both chambers. A third bill would have given local law enforcement access to the database, but that, too, did not pass.

“We want to treat people's illnesses, but we know there are people out there who aren't really looking for the medicines for those purposes,” Jo said.

She said she believes medical professionals, law enforcement and the public should work together to help solve the state's No. 1 drug problem.

“We're not looking to punish people. We're looking to help people. That's what we do, and the more awareness there is, the better,” she said.


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  • beachboater Nov 9, 2011

    I have chronic pain. Have had it for a number of years. I take a lot of pain medicine, and have to take it to function / work.

    I go to a pain specialist. He prescribes the meds as well as sticking a bunch of very big long needles into my back and neck. I don't abuse it, and he checks on it regularly with all of his patients. You pee in a cup at random. They are not looking for illegal drugs, they are looking for the prescribed drugs. If what you are prescribed is not in your pee, you are let go as a patient. Period, no appeals, no nothing, you are gone. That's the only way it can be done.

    He is honest with his patients, and expects the same in return.

  • weasel2 Nov 9, 2011

    Once again the Dr gets away with legal drug dealing. They have a resource to stop illegal access to drugs but are just to busy to check it. I think they should be chargeed just like any one else that contributes to or distributes drugs.

  • Here2tellya Nov 9, 2011

    Way to go General Assembly. There is a resource in place and ready to use that could drastically reduce the amount of abuse and dr. shopping and fraud and DEATHS....yet it's not required to be used or available to law enforcement.!?!?! Who's bright idea was that? Come on people, that's what the data base is there for, let's use it. These are drugs that you can not grow in your back yard or brew in your barn. They need to be controlled and it all starts with dr.'s and pharmasists using this data base and law enforcement being able to access it. Think of the thousands of lives that could have been saved last year alone. My X being one of them. It's not too late to start NOW!

  • tbajr Nov 9, 2011

    "We're not looking to punish people. We're looking to help people." Oh yes whenever government says they are here to help,
    you better look out!

  • love2dostuff Nov 9, 2011

    Yet another foolish expenditure and one of the several hundred billion dollars worth spend on the "war on drugs" which we are losing daily. Big Pharma wants to make it, doctors want to prescribe it, people who legitimately need it want access to it and justice wants to control it's use and distribution. Makes no sense. Who should have say in your health care; A doctor or an administrator who is trying to save his company money? Being an former pro athlete, a military serviceman and my wife works at sas so I probably have the best health coverage on the planet. But I still see the need for nationalized health care to stop the foolishness that's presented in this article.

  • eliwright Nov 9, 2011

    WHEEL you are absolutely wrong... our ER doc's use it, and it's WONDERFUL!!! cuts down on frequent flyers (drug seekers) that waste ER staff's time, crowd up the ER and delay care for those who actually ARE sick/injured, and waste taxpayer's money (junkies NEVER pay their bills, so the cost get's sent right to the working people). plus, it's a NATIONAL system folks (DEA... just like the other 3 letter folks ATF, FBI, DHS, CIA etc... get it?)

  • WHEEL Nov 9, 2011

    Another uncompensated, intrusive, interference in the doctor/patient relationship so that the State can hire more useless IT personell

  • MadBiker Nov 8, 2011

    The DEA already tracks what kind/ how many prescriptions doctors write.

  • Uhavenoclu Nov 8, 2011

    Mikey,before the doctors stoipped at a certain point of prescribing drugs.
    I had broken my leg in 2 places and went through 2 bottles of Tylenol and codeine at the time in a day and was refused more for the doctor said i was going through a lot quickly so went days without any pain meds and got used to it it went away.
    I was a bus driver dial a ride years ago and there was a passenger I picked up all the time to take to her psychiatrist and she was a former nurse who had lupus and she would get a bottle of cylert 40 count twice a weeks and would keep 10 for herself and give me the rest.
    So doctors only go by what they hear from the patient i ws prescribed norco 4 times a week for pain that went away in a day or 2 but was still getting you ok they would ask and I would say no want some pian meds yes ok here you go.
    Time to really look into the records of the doctors who prescribe the pain meds the most.

  • common_sense_plz Nov 8, 2011

    The reason the state probably dont want to use this program, is that they will end up catching thier own state leaders.