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Senators Pare Back Prescription Drug Abuse Plan

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CBS Baltimore (con't)

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland state senators want to limit who would report to the state under a monitoring plan aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse.

The Senate on Friday is expected to debate a measure that would establish the state as a data warehouse on prescriptions to help officials curb a rise in prescription drug-related deaths.

Lawmakers outlined a slew of amendments Thursday that would exempt veterinarians and retirement homes from having to report their distribution of prescription painkillers — including OxyContin and other highly addictive opioids — limit access to the data collected and establish an advisory board.

The state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported this year that the number of prescription-drug abusers seeking treatment in Maryland almost doubled between 2007 and 2010. But better information — including where people are getting the prescriptions and how many are abusing the drugs but have yet to suffer dire effects — is hard to come by.

“The fact is that we’ve got people who are in the pipeline for these really tragic endings,” said Frances Phillips, the state’s deputy secretary for public health.

The state currently tracks prescription drug abuse by admissions for drug treatment, calls to the state’s poison control hotline and reports from the state medical examiner, Phillips said.

The monitoring program would track prescriptions of certain drugs (listed on the federal government’s Controlled Dangerous Substances schedules 2-5) when they are filled at pharmacies

The amendments being sought by senators would exempt places unlikely to be providing the most frequently abused drugs — such as the painkillers OxyContin and Vicodin, Phillips said.

Maryland is one of six states that does not monitor prescriptions. The General Assembly passed such a measure in 2006, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich.

“These pills are going for $30 a piece on the street, the kids are breaking them up and snorting them,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert. “Then the people who work in the doctor’s office are stealing the doctor’s pads, giving them to their boyfriends, their boyfriends get the fraudulent prescription and then when the druggist calls back to the doctor’s office and says ‘Is this okay?’ the lady answers the phone and says ‘Yes, that’s okay.'”

“We are behind the 8 ball and it’s an epidemic,” Miller said.

A call to the Maryland State Medical Society, MedChi, which has opposed certain parts of the proposal, was not returned Thursday afternoon.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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