MARCH 01, 2006

The government's new antidrug strategy does not include any new programs. The strategy does, however, encourage more states to create databases that can track patients who get multiple prescriptions filled for frequently abused drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin. The plans will focus on 20 states that do not have prescription-drug registries and whose legislatures meet this year.

Prescription-drug registries already exist in 28 states, funded with federal and state money. The states with drug registries require pharmacists and physicians to record prescriptions into computer registries that health care professionals can track. Police also have access to many of the registries.

The effects of the existing registries are murky because the first data analyzing their results will not be available until 2007. Opponents of the registries have expressed concern regarding patients' privacy and the possibility of interference with medical care.