NC has database to track drugs, but it's rarely used
Posted November 8, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.
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.