States will receive fresh federal fundingto fight prescription drug abusethrough electronic databases thatmonitor drug prescribing and dispensingactivity, if Congress approves a proposednew "National All Schedules PrescriptionElectronic Reporting Act."
The bill, which is being proposed bya bipartisan group of lawmakersincluding Senators Jeff Sessions (R, Ala)and Edward Kennedy (D, Mass), aimsto fight prescription drug diversionand abuse throughout the country.
The nation's "law enforcement officialswant to stop the flow of prescriptiondrugs to the streets," and a nationalelectronic monitoring program willbe a "valuable resource" to help them,Kennedy said in endorsing the bill.
Although 19 states currently operatetheir own electronic Rx monitoringsystems, officials concede that theseprograms vary widely in terms of themethods used to collect and store data.States also impose inconsistent rulesgoverning the use of prescribing anddispensing information—an issue thatworries privacy advocates.
A national system funded by thefederal government "must includestrong safeguards for medical privacy,and must make certain that the databasecannot be used to bring improperpressure on physicians to avoid prescribingessential medication forpatients in need," Kennedy said.
Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.