Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Health

Pharmacists, like doctors, rarely consult drug database

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Even if doctors don't consult the drug monitoring database, many people believe that shouldn't matter because pharmacists must still check it before handing over the drugs.

But that, in fact, is not true.

The law includes just one requirement: Anyone who dispenses controlled substances, primarily pharmacies, must enter the prescription's details into the state database within seven days. That information includes the type of drug, how much of it was issued and who prescribed it.

But the law doesn't require pharmacists to check and see if they're about to hand a bottle of potent painkillers to somebody who has been collecting prescriptions in quantities that clearly suggest abuse. In fact, pharmacists are slightly less likely to check the database before filling a prescription than physicians are to check it before writing one.

Since the system launched on Sept. 1, 2011, more than 48 million prescriptions have been filled for controlled substances in Florida. State records show that pharmacists checked the database before filling just 1.9 percent of those — compared with about 2 percent for physicians.

Officials from Walgreens, Publix and Walmart all said their Florida pharmacists are registered with the database and are encouraged to use it.

Winn-Dixie didn't respond to several messages and Target officials declined to comment. A CVS spokesman said that although their pharmacists input prescription information into the database as required by law, the company has not given them access to the database.

CVS's operations make up 13 percent of the Tampa Bay area pharmacies that are licensed to dispense controlled substances.

Several local pharmacists said they use the system and wish others would more often.

Many also argued that prescription information should be uploaded to the database immediately. The delay of up to a week could allow patients to visit dozens of doctors and pharmacies before their activity ever appears in the system.

Sally West of the Florida Retail Federation said most pharmacists already know which patients are seeking the medications for the wrong reasons. It's unfair, she added, that the onus to stop drug abusers is so often placed on pharmacies.

"We've put pharmacists in the role of policemen as to whether or not they should give out these prescription drugs," she said. "That's kind of a precarious position."

Still, Dan Fucarino, owner of Carrollwood Pharmacy, said both doctors and pharmacists have a responsibility to check the database.

"It takes a minute at the most to look this up," he said. "How hard could it be?"

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