With limited mandate, N.J. lawmakers gain doctor group’s support for changes to prescription monitoring

    Just six months ago, the Medical Society of New Jersey was opposed to any type of mandate requiring its doctors to report their painkiller prescriptions to a statewide database.

    “The problem with those mandates is that they’re stagnant,” said Mishael Azam, chief operating officer of the Society. “Technology changes, best practices change, and then this mandate is stuck in law.”

    But Azam said the group now backs a bill that would require doctors to use the reporting tool, in part because it is not a blanket rule. Only new patients and those on an ongoing course of the meds would be checked, the latter at least four times a year. Established patients who need pills for a single event, such as surgery, would be exempt.

    Advocacy groups and others, including the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, have called for making participation obligatory to increase the program‘s effectiveness. Prescription monitoring programs have been adopted in many states to cut down on “doctor shopping,” in which addicts seek prescriptions from multiple physicians to feed their habit or to sell the drugs on the street.

    The proposed legislation also would allow other medical professionals in a doctor’s office to do the reporting and check the database.

    “This bill, at this point,” said Azam, “is kind of a perfect compromise, which is an unusual thing in Trenton.”

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