By Jamie Shuster
The CDC recently sounded the alarm on a growing epidemic in our country: the over-prescription of opioid painkillers. According to the CDC, American health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.
From a public health perspective, this is a serious concern as higher prescribing of pain killers is associated with more overdoses and deaths. Here in South Carolina, 102 prescriptions for painkillers are now written for every 100 residents, and more than 200 people die each year from accidental prescription drug overdose. All of these deaths are avoidable. Most are caused because people are able to shop for painkillers by contacting multiple pharmacies and physicians to receive separate prescriptions for the same drug.
To combat the problem, DHEC is working with health care providers and pharmacists across the state to increase the number of prescribers utilizing our enhanced prescription monitoring program known as SCRIPTS. Run by our Bureau of Drug Control, this voluntary, online database makes it easier for South Carolina doctors and pharmacists to identify and report potential prescription drug abuse.
How does it work? Doctors, dentists and veterinarians enter a patient’s name, the dose and quantity of the controlled substance they prescribed, and the name of the pharmacy that dispensed it to track patient prescriptions, Other SCRIPTS users can then access patient reports 24/7 to immediately identify potential opioid abuse.
Currently, nearly 4,000 physicians and more than 2,000 pharmacists access SCRIPTS, but we need more prescribers to actively use this program to crackdown on prescription drug abuse in our state and help save more lives.
To encourage more prescribers to use this life-saving tool, we recently made it easier to access SCRIPTS by allowing doctors’ office staff to enter prescription information for a physician. We are also working with the health care community to educate more prescribers, pharmacists, and pre-service students on the importance of using the prescription monitoring program daily to avoid prescribing painkillers to a patient that may be shopping for pills.
Thank you to the DHEC SCRIPTS team – Christie Frick, Tracie Paschall, and Anne Marie Ravenna – for your hard work in enhancing South Carolina’s prescription monitoring capabilities to help crackdown on pill shopping and save more lives.