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Individuals buying prescription painkillers, sedatives, and other addictive medications may be under the watchful eye of state regulators every time they visit a pharmacy?at least in Iowa.
The Iowa Board of Pharmacy Examiners plans to require pharmacists to regularly report all prescriptions they fill for drugs such as Oxycontin, Vicodin, or Xanax. The goal is to make it more difficult for addicts to visit different physicians and pharmacies to get multiple prescriptions for the same medications. The board recently voted to set up a computer system that would automatically track such prescriptions and initiate alerts about possible abuses.
More than a dozen states already are trying similar systems, and supporters believe that most of the rest of the country will participate. Critics, on the other hand, fear that the project would make physicians worry that if they prescribed needed medications they would be branded as drug pushers. Iowa has received a $350,000 federal grant to establish the project, and administrators estimate an approximate cost of $100,000 a year to operate it. The board plans to have the system up and running by the end of 2005.
Although current Iowa law allows for the board to implement the plan, the Iowa Medical Society disagrees. The physicians' group believes that the plan should go before the legislature for debate. Jeanine Freeman, JD, vice president of the medical society, said that the group has not decided whether to oppose the project, but that it has serious concerns. "We certainly are going to be a fly in the ointment," she informed the board.