By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–On Tuesday, three companion bills passed out of Senate Judicial Committee with a unanimous vote. Sponsor Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) said that he has packaged SB113, SB114 and SB115 in hopes they can travel together through the process. “Prescription drug abuse is one of the leading crimes in our community today, unfortunately. It is an epidemic,” said Ward.
All three bills are related to pain management and the prescription drug abuse epidemic.
The first bill, SB113, is called the Alabama Pain Management Act. It reads, “This bill would provide additional powers for the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners regarding regulating pain management clinics and physicians.” The bill tightens up the requirements for registrations and applies only to physicians who prescribe controlled substances.
The second bill, SB114, makes it a Class A misdemeanor to “doctor shop” to obtain similar pain medications from multiple physicians within a short period of time. The bill reads, “to prohibit the practice of deceptively obtaining the same or a similar substance from two or more practitioners in a concurrent time period.” It says that the person must “knowingly deceitfully” try to obtain a prescription from two or more physicians. Ward said about the prescription drug epidemic, “It is one of the biggest problems we face today and one of the growing problems in our prison population.” The bill includes an additional penalty for being charged multiple times in a period of four years making it a Class C felony. “One reason is there is not enough oversight making sure that doctors are not overprescribing certain medications. Secondly is the issue of ‘doctor shopping.;’ We have people out there shopping simultaneous doctors and getting the exact same prescription from four or five at the same time, abusing the system and then get hooked on it. Then it goes down hill from there,” said Ward.
The third bill, SB115, would amend various sections of the Controlled Substance Prescription Database widening access and “provide further for the membership of the Controlled Substances Prescription Database Advisory Committee.” Ward said, “”Many of these doctors don’t know that they are prescribing to someone in this situation.”
Doctors access this database before prescribing pain medication to see if the patient has received a prescription recently for similar medication. It allows for Medicaid access as well as designated office personnel access. It also allows for transmission of information across state lines. Although the bill itself does not require a physician to use the database it does open up the possibility that it could become a requirement of the applicable licensing board. Pharmacists will not be required to access or check the information.
Ward finished by saying, “Right now there is a hodgepodge of laws. We need to clean it up and make the database available and that doctors are looking at it and making sure that they are not prescribing to someone who doesn’t need it.
“It is long overdue. All three bills are necessary and I am looking forward to carrying them on the floor of the Senate.”