South Carolina legislators pushed across dozens of bills on the final two days of their regular 2017 session, including one which will require doctors to use a state database before prescribing new opioid medication.
Medical practitioners are already encouraged to use the Prescription Monitoring Program database, but participation will be mandatory if the new legislation is approved by Gov. Henry McMaster. The House and Senate this week approved the measure in combined 134-5 votes.
The program show patients’ prescription history with pain medication to alert the doctor to potential red flags for individuals who may be obtaining the drugs for addictions or to sell on the black market. A special advisory council created by then-Gov. Nikki Haley first recommended making the database mandatory in 2014.
“The main issue is that it’s going to give us a more comprehensive ability to see who may or may not be doctor shopping, or which doctors may be prescribing in a pattern that is outside the normal, standard practice of care,” lead sponsor State Rep. Phyllis Henderson, R-Greenville, said after the vote.
Henderson said the database will also help the state Department of Health and Environmental Control track the prescriptions to note if any practitioners are prescribing unusually high amounts of opioids. She said that could be an alert to potential fraud.
The bill is among a half-dozen being pushed by lawmakers in an effort to halt worsening rates of opioid overdoses in South Carolina. The state Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS) said deaths due to prescription misuse of opioid drugs or heroin led to 594 deaths across South Carolina in 2015, the most recent year available. DAODAS director Sara Goldsby believes the numbers will likely increase when the 2016 data is released later this summer.
House Republicans have tried to make combatting opioid abuse a priority this year, as death rates continue to rise in South Carolina. The new Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee held its first meeting on Tuesday. The committee is chaired by State Rep. Eric Bedingfield, R-Belton, who has moved to head up the issue after his son died of an overdose last year.