KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A new law that takes effect Monday will require Tennessee doctors prescribing painkillers and other controlled substances to check their patients' prescription histories. The law is intended to prevent abuse and doctor shopping.
The new requirement is one of the changes in the Tennessee Prescription Safety Act that Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law in May 2012.
Lawmakers hope it will make an impact on one of the nation's highest prescription drug abuse rates.
The state has maintained the Controlled Substance Monitoring Database since 2006. Physicians will now be required to check that database first before prescribing an opioid or benzodiazepine for more than seven days.
The records must also be updated every seven days.
"[Doctors] are going to be now required to evaluate those records," said Dr. Michael O'Neil, a professor of pharmacy practice at South College. "In the long run, the issue is could the practitioners and the prescribers be held accountable?"
The provision will add another layer of prevention to prescription drug abuse, putting physicians on the front lines of identifying and confronting doctor shoppers.
The checks will be time consuming, but Dr. O'Neil says they will be a great tool.
Dr. O'Neil has worked as a consultant for prescription drug abuse with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency for 18 years.
"It does take some time to go through and the data itself is not a definite evidence of a crime, but it now requires multiple questions to be asked of the patients to understand if a true crime has been committed," O'Neil said.
Mollie Scarborough, a pharmacist at Hoskins Drug Store in Clinton, says doctors will need time getting used to reviewing their patients' prescription histories.
"The doctors are going to be overwhelmed Monday when they start having to check on each patient and check. It takes time to pull up the history and review it," Scarborough said.
Commonly prescribed medications like Xanax and Valium are part of the database that must now be checked.
"Those might be prescribed to somebody that's not necessarily prescribing pain medicines or a pain clinic. So it will put a burden on those physicians and you will find a lot of physicians that won't prescribe them, that did in the past," Scarborough said.
Other provisions of the Prescription Safety Act of 2012 took effect on January 1. Previously, doctors were only required to check the statewide electronic database every 30 days.