California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Low Participation Hurts Efficacy of Calif. Rx Drug Monitoring Program

Limited enrollment in California's prescription drug monitoring program has hindered its ability to curb prescription drug misuse, the New York Times reports.

Under the program, physicians and pharmacies are able to access the prescription histories of patients in a real-time online database and refuse medications for patients whose drug shopping habits appear suspicious. However, only 1,216 pharmacists and 6,755 prescribers -- out of more than 165,000 in the state -- currently are registered in the program.

According to the Times, budget cuts have eliminated nearly all of the state's funding for the program. Physicians say the system is slow and lacks the capability to systematically analyze data. According to Mike Small, who runs the program, the system is "old and falling apart" and needs up to $1.2 million in upgrades (Walter, New York Times, 4/7).

Drug Authorities Investigate Walgreen Pharmacies

In related news, the Drug Enforcement Administration is targeting Walgreen pharmacies and drug distribution centers as part of its continued crackdown on Florida's distribution of prescription painkillers, the Miami Herald reports (Hiaasen, Miami Herald, 4/6).

According to an inspection warrant issued last week, DEA is investigating Walgreens in Jupiter, Fla., and the companies' top six retail pharmacies in the state for 2011 "to determine if the pharmacies are dispensing controlled substances outside the scope of their registration in violation of federal laws and regulation."

The warrant noted that there were 38 Walgreen pharmacies in a list of the top 100 retail sellers of oxycodone in Florida, and 53 in the top 100 list for the first two months of 2012. The data "is indicative of a pharmacy that fills prescription issued by physicians at pain clinics and/or a pharmacy which services primarily drug seeking individuals that abuse the medication," the warrant said.

Walgreen spokesperson Robert Elfinger said the company is cooperating with federal authorities (Clarke/Jonas, Reuters, 4/6).

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