KNOXVILLE (WATE) - As of Monday, doctors prescribing painkillers are required to check their patient's history of using painkillers through a controlled substance monitoring database.
The new requirement is one of the changes in the Tennessee Prescription Safety Act that Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law in May 2012.
Dr. Anthony Wilson of UT Medical Center says doctors at his hospital have used the database for years. He says they have prevented abuse from happening.
"There are some patients that we did not suspect may have been diverting medications for improper use who actually had been," Dr. Wilson said. "We have taken measures to not prescribe those medications to those people."
Under the law, doctors prescribing painkillers and other controlled substances will have to check their patients' prescription histories upon the first visit.
The law is intended to prevent abuse and doctor shopping.
"It is more work, but it is definitely worth it," said Pain Consultants of East Tennessee's Dr. Joe Browder.
Dr. Browder says he has used the database since its inception in 2006. A search can take 3-4 minutes, but it's worth every second.
"You can see the patients are first of all, doing what they're supposed to, but also you can see who's not doing what they're not supposed to, and that's probably more important," Browder said.
For the past few weeks, Dr. Reeves Johnson with Summit Medical Group has been helping to train his staff on how to use the program.
He says the system appeared to be overwhelmed with slow wait times. Several providers reported having troubling logging on and accessing the system.
"We did have some trouble. The system appeared to be done a couple of times and that gets frustrating," Dr. Johnson said.
Once new patients are in the database, the law requires they only be checked every year, which should things easy in the long run.
"For your chronic patients, you have do it once a year, probably minimal as you get further and further along. I think you'll be able to make that time up," said Johnson.
Since January 1, 2013, pharmacists are required to enter prescription information for commonly abused drugs into a statewide electronic database every seven days. Previously this was only required every 30 days.