Alabama targets doctor shopping and Rx diversion

August 19, 2013

Alabama has targeted so-called “doctor shopping” and Rx diversion with three bills designed to stop such lawbreakers.

Alabama has targeted so-called “doctor shopping” and Rx diversion with three bills designed to stop such lawbreakers.

Signed into law by Governor Robert Bentley last week, the bills are designed to decrease Rx abuse in Alabama, which in 2012 had one of the highest rates of prescription painkillers sold per 10,000 people.

“Used properly under a physician’s direction, pain relievers and other prescription drugs bring much-needed comfort to many Americans, but their abuse is a serious and growing threat,” Bentley said. “As a physician, and as a governor, I understand the importance of fighting prescription drug abuse. These bills are designed to help us address this problem while also protecting the rights of patients.”

The first bill, HB 150, clarifies language authorizing the state Board of Medical Examiners to regulate Alabama’s drug monitoring program, which lists the names of individuals who receive controlled substances and the medical professionals who prescribed them. The bill allows physicians to designate staff members who can access the database. It also enables the state Medicaid agency to access the database and monitor Rx use by its enrollees.

The second bill, HB 151, increases the regulation of pain-management clinics and gives the state subpoena power to investigate those clinics. It requires pain-management services to be owned by doctors who are licensed to practice in Alabama or by businesses registered within the state.

The third bill, HB 152, establishes criminal penalties for patients who “doctor shop” for prescription drugs. People convicted of doctor shopping face up to one year in jail for a first offense.

“There are many good physicians treating patients who have legitimate issues with pain, and we want to encourage the continued treatment of those patients,” said Buddy Smith, MD, chairman of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama Board of Censors. “Some states that have tried to combat prescription drug abuse have passed legislation that had disastrous effects on patient care and placed tremendous burdens on physicians. This package presents a workable solution.”