Pa. budget impasse may delay opioid prescription tracker

     OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. As in previous recent years, opioid drugs — which include OxyContin and Vicodin — were the biggest problem, contributing to 3 out of 4 medication overdose deaths. (Toby Talbot/AP Photo)

    OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. As in previous recent years, opioid drugs — which include OxyContin and Vicodin — were the biggest problem, contributing to 3 out of 4 medication overdose deaths. (Toby Talbot/AP Photo)

    Could Pennsylvania’s opioid drug tracker be delayed further? Doctors are concerned the budget bickering in Harrisburg will mean further delays for a new tool in responding to the state’s heroin crisis.

    The Pennsylvania Medical Society was one of the most dogged supporters of the new prescription drug tracker. The expanded registry was approved last year to monitor the prescription of opioids, often cited as precursors to heroin use.

    But the system’s funding is ensnared in the budget stalemate, and PAMED is worried.

    “We’d hate to see, again, continued delay on this really, really important tool that physicians can use … to improve the health of their patients and also assure that we’re able to screen out potential drug shoppers or scammers in the exam room and in our emergency rooms across the state,” said the group’s CEO Michael Fraser.

    The budget stalemate is the second blow to the expanded drug registry. The program wasn’t funded at all under last year’s spending plan.

    The secretary of the Pennsylvania Health Department has said the database will be up and running next year.

    An agency spokeswoman wouldn’t address whether the budget impasse will mean further delays. She said the department is “taking first steps” to implement the system.

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