| WASHINGTON, June 21
WASHINGTON, June 21 The Obama administration is
launching a pilot program to make it easier for doctors,
pharmacists and emergency departments to access patients'
prescription drug records, aiming to stem a rising tide of
Overdoses from prescription drugs are now the leading cause
of accidental deaths in the country, eclipsing car crashes and
the combined impact of cocaine and heroin abuse.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health IT
division will introduce the pilot program in Indiana and Ohio.
Forty-nine U.S. states authorize such prescription drug
monitoring programs, which collect information from pharmacies
and practitioners. But doctors in many states hardly use the
data because of the difficulty in navigating through the
information, HHS said.
"We're trying to make it as convenient as possible," said
Marty Allain, a senior director at the Indiana Board of
Pharmacy. Allain, who worked with HHS to design the pilot
program, said it would merge the government data with the
electronic health record systems already used in doctors'
practices and pharmacies.
Providers have also complained that existing data is often
available only after a lag of up to 30 days, saying it makes the
information less effective when deciding whether to write a
prescription. The new system improves on that technology to
provide real-time data.
"We got serious pushback on that," said Sherry Green, chief
executive officer of the federally funded National Alliance for
Model State Drug Laws. "The real-time is a very big issue."
The program in Indiana will encourage emergency department
staff to access patients' prescription history directly through
an electronic management system already used in hospitals across
the state. HHS said that in some states, emergency providers
account for 25 percent of all controlled substance
In Ohio, the program will test a new drug risk indicator and
its impact on decision-making in clinics, hospitals and doctor's
"Part of the problem we have with the prescription drug
abuse problem is we are always playing catch-up," said Green.
"We are moving towards early identification of a problem and
toward the preventive side of a problem -- to keep things from
getting worse or to prevent problems for some patients in the
(Reporting by Salimah Ebrahim; Editing by Michele Gershberg)