Wolf promises Pa. funding for prescription drug database

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    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s new budget is breathing new life into efforts to curb drug addition. The governor has earmarked $2.1 million for the state’s prescription drug-monitoring program that had been struggling for funds.

    The state’s new controlled substances database will track prescriptions for opioid painkillers, which have spiked in recent years. When abused, opioid painkillers can be a gateway to heroin addiction.

    State health department spokeswoman Holly Senior said the database will give prescribers the information they need to track painkiller abuse.

    “Prior to this legislation being signed, Pennsylvania was the only state that required monitoring of only schedule II drugs and did not allow health care prescribers and dispensers to access the system,” said Senior.

    Dr. David R. Gastfriend, CEO of the Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia, said controlled substances databases are an effective way of tackling drug addiction.

    “The data are very clear and it’s from multiple states that, when you set up a program like this, you reduce the amount of excess prescribing going on in the state, and you reduce the amount of prescription opioid overdoses,” said Gastfriend.

    The database will also give prescribers the chance to identify a patient who may be struggling with addiction and provide referrals, he said.

    Pennsylvania is next to last in the country in setting up a controlled substances-monitoring database. The $2.1 million will cover initial startup costs for the first year of operation. The project is scheduled to launch by June 30.

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