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In Depth: Kentucky Waits for National Prescription Monitoring Network

By Brenna Angel


LEXINGTON, Ky. – The number of people crossing state lines to buy prescription pain killers has policy makers looking for ways to crack down on drug trafficking and pill mills. There is currently no national network to monitor the flow of prescription drugs. But as Brenna Angel reports, that will soon change, and states will have options.

Kentucky has seen the dangers of addiction to prescription drugs. Officials say each month around 82 people die here from drug overdose.

The Bluegrass state has been at the forefront of trying to combat the problem, establishing a prescription monitoring program or PMP in 1999. It's called KASPER (Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting). Doctors and pharmacists can see what drugs a patient has been prescribed and where, but only within the state of Kentucky.

That is about to change with the launch of the Prescription Monitoring Information Exchange, or PMIX. KASPER manager Dave Hopkins says the program will be a partnership between Kentucky and Ohio.

"We are close, we're this close, but we aren't there yet. In a matter of weeks -- I won't say if that's two weeks or four weeks -- we will have pilot users in Ohio, pilot users in Kentucky that are actually able to use their home state system to get data from the other state as well."

That announcement was made back in February. Weeks have turned into months. Project manager Scott Serich of the IJIS Institute says since the idea for PMIX first came about 5 years ago, there have been technology roadblocks and other issues to deal with.

"Sort of like a field of dreams, we've been sitting back and waiting for the states to ask us for help to plug in. But because of these other priorities and the budget constraints and things like that, we've sort of had to continue to sit patiently and look to other future projects to keep us busy while we've been waiting."

"That's why we became involved," says Carmen Catizone, Executive Director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

The NABP is another organization developing a network of prescription monitoring programs it calls the Interconnect.

"People came to us and said we've been waiting all this time for a national system and we're not sure we're going to get the national system that we want in the time frame that we need.'"

Eight states have already signed agreements to use the NABP Interconnect: Connecticut, Indiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

PMIX and the Interconnect work essentially the same way. They will serve as communication hubs. Instead of contacting each state's PMP directly, a physician could make just one request for information and that would make it easier to spot people who cross state lines to go doctor shopping.

Danna Droz, the administrator of Ohio's prescription monitoring program, says the Interconnect has several advantages over the PMIX project.

"It's going to allow us to share data across more state lines faster. And we'll have more functionality and it's cheaper."

Funding is the biggest difference between the two systems. PMIX is supported by federal dollars, while the Interconnect is using a mix of funding sources, including a grant from Purdue Pharma. NABP says the Interconnect will be free to states for 5 years.

Kentucky, meanwhile, has not signed up for the NABP Interconnect but is reviewing the proposal. And it appears the PMIX partnership between Kentucky and Ohio will finally launch in July. That's the same time the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy plans to have its system up and running.

"I think the momentum is on the NABP side" says Droz.

At this point Droz says Ohio does not plan to commit to one program over the other. She just wants a system that works effectively in tracking prescription drugs and helps prevent overdose deaths.