‘Doctor Shopping’ Database Concerns Privacy Advocates

By Susy Solis, CBS 11 News

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The abuse of prescription drugs has skyrocketed across the nation, and especially in Texas where, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, accidental overdoses from 1999 to 2007 increased 150%.

Now the Texas Legislature is hoping to take action to curb prescription drug abuse.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has kept tabs on who is prescribing, filling and buying controlled substances, such as hydrocodone and Xanax, two of the most commonly abused prescription drugs, for years. Physicians, pharmacists and law enforcement officials can register for access to the information. So far only, there are about 200 registered users of the database, known as Prescription Access Texas, or PAT. Of the 200, 22 are in Dallas/ Fort Worth area, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The PAT database is set to go online in the summer of 2012, but in next year’s legislative session, lawmakers will consider requiring doctors and pharmacists to check the database before writing or filling prescriptions of controlled substances, something that currently is voluntary,  The purpose, lawmakers say, is to “take a proactive approach to prevention, assist with criminal investigation and provide historical reporting and identify trends,” according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Former addicts, like Maryrose Zielan, a Dallas radio personality, says something like that may have saved her life.

“I would shop, I had 3 different doctors I was going to, I had to make notes which pharmacy,” Zielan said.

Zielan first mingled with prescription drugs to treat migraines but a bulging disk in her back and caring for her sick mother took her addiction to another level. At one point after back surgery, Zielan says she was taking up to 20 pills a day to manage her pain.

In the next legislative session, lawmakers will consider legislation that would require doctors and pharmacists to check the database before filling and prescribing controlled substances.

“It’s possible that an patient can claim that it’s an invasion of their privacy under the constitution 4th amendment,” said Peter Vogel, a privacy attorney for Gardere.

The other concern for privacy advocates is how law enforcement will use the data.
“Are they then going to have a drug raid on that person’s home? Is the police going to come and seize the drugs? It’s not real clear what would happen with all that,” said Vogel.

The Texas Department of Public Safety says the data will be used to help identify fraud, all in an effort to curb prescription drug abuse.

Zielan said, if the database can save one life, it’s worth it.

“This year on April 24th, I’ll be sober for 7 years and I’ve seen Christ work in my life. I can’t believe I’m alive,” she said.
The database is scheduled to be rolled out online this summer.

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  • medtech

    County hospitals POUR OUT the pain meds to addicts. Talk to a Parkland and or JPS nurse. They have their own pharmacies and nothing will stop this massive supply of Hydrocodone, Oxy etc to be available on the street and sales to friends, family members.

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  • NiteNurse

    It’s not JUST county hospitals but all hospitals and doctors are feeling the pressure from agencies like joint commission and the government to address pain issues. Addicts know just what words to use with doctors and hospitals to get what they want. A few years ago we wanted to help patients get the pain relief they needed but in the process we gave birth to a crop of prescription addicts who work the system like nobody’s business. Just look at how Michael Jackson worked it. They make it difficult for the patients who really need pain relief.

    • robert

      Don’t see where anyone suggested County hospitals are the only pushers. However, having worked at both JPS and Parkland, I’d say JPS is better supplying the streets, friends, family members and pain pill customers. Actually, all readers need to do is come see for themselves.

      • NiteNurse

        I’ve worked at JPS and at private hospitals I see no difference. An addict will go anywhere to get their fix. I don’t see how checking a database will help if they use fake names or IDs. The only way is to maybe have them use a thumbprint and enter it into the database whenever a narcotic prescription is filled. This will make it difficult for those who truely have some terminal disease and can’t get to the pharmacy to get their pain meds filled.

      • trueprofessionals

        I beleive you still DO work at JPS and are therefore in selective denial. I can assure you as a Harris medical professional, we do NOT write scripts to addicts anywhere near the way JPS doctors do so I resent your comment and the lie “nitenurse.”

      • ER

        I work at a local private hospital ER and I often feel pressured to write scripts for narcotics by patients who I feel might be doctor shopping. Hospital administrations want high marks on their surveys for addressing pain issues in patients. Government reimbursement is tied to these surveys. So a doctor is often torn between keeping a hospital going and trying to do what is right.

  • Parkland Patient

    And yet when a patient at Parkland is ordered Morphine, and the nurse never brings it, NO ONE is concerned and the patient is released with NO treatment. The government is charged for it and either the nurse gave it to the wrong patient, or took it herself! Report it to everyone and get completely ignored!

    And as far as privacy goes, the fine for a Parkland doctor that intentionally violated patient privacy laws is a whopping $500; chump change.

  • robert

    It’s about to get a lot worse in that PURE hydrocodone will be out soon. Yes Parkland patient, I’ve seen similar occurences when addicts tolerance is so bad that even with an I.V. pumping, they still holler for more dope and get it in the form of another 90 day script as they waddle out the door. There’s something very curious happening in regard to all these addicts being intentionally made. The U.S. is undeniably facing a future physician shortage. Maybe all this pill pushing is connected to the income flow needed to facilitating the future of Dr’s completing med school, funded TO the pharmaceutical companies. Also, the cartels are hopeful that the synthetic heroin addicts (oxycontin) transition easily over to the real thing-brown, blk tar heroin.

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