Under a new law that is expected to go into effect later this year, the Arizona legislature has attempted to zero in on prescription drug abuse. The law will become effective October 1, 2017, or 60 days after the state has integrated certain data into its health information exchange, whichever is later. When implemented, A.R.S. 13-2606H will require, in most cases, that prior to prescribing a Schedule II, Schedule III or Schedule IV opioid analgesic or benzodiazepine, the prescribing medical practitioner must first access a patient’s history of using similar medications through the prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) database.
The intent of the law is to deal with the problem of prescription drug abuse. In 2015 alone, more than 20,000 people died from overdoses of prescription drug pain relievers. The statute aims at curtailing, or at least reducing, the ability of patients to engage in “doctor shopping.”
What is Doctor Shopping?
The term “doctor shopping” generally refers to a patient obtaining multiple controlled substance prescriptions from a number of doctors or other practitioners without their knowledge. In Arizona, prosecutions for doctor shopping were traditionally based upon laws such as A.R.S. 13-3406, which makes it illegal to obtain a prescription-only drug through fraud or misrepresentation. Because of the proof issues in such cases, it is often difficult to convict, or even to charge, a violation in many cases.
All the states have general doctor shopping laws of one sort or another, such as a fraud statute. Around 20 states have laws that prohibit a patient from knowingly withholding information from a doctor about their use of controlled substances and/or prescriptions from other providers. Until last year, only 16 states required a physician to access a PDMP database prior to prescribing opioids or similar medications.
The question, of course, is whether the new law will be effective in reducing the number of deaths from prescription medication overdoses. We expect that it will. The extent of the success, of course, is something that will be revealed over time. Meanwhile, doctors will not be able to shield themselves by claiming that they were misled by their patient, or that they were simply unaware of evidence of a drug abuse problem.
The Feldman Law Firm PLLC
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Phoenix, AZ 85004