AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas State Board of Pharmacy’s Prescription Monitoring Program was set to become a statewide mandate on Sept. 1 but is now delayed until March 1.

The program is a statewide database that connects with 30 other states’ prescription records to help doctors and pharmacists determine if a patient is at a high risk for overdose.

“You can see when you're looking up if the patient has been going to numerous prescribers, numerous pharmacies, have lots of prescriptions that are being given too soon, they're going within a few days to a new doctor, getting a 30-day supply, when they've already got a 30-day supply somewhere else and just repeatedly going,” said Allison Benz, the executive director of the state Board of Pharmacy.

The delay in implementation is to allow more time for statewide integration, Benz said.  

The program will be mandated for doctors to check before prescribing opioids, benzodiazepines, carisoprodol or barbiturates. It’s not required for patients battling cancer, sickle cell anemia or those who are in hospice care.

Instead of stopping people from getting medication that they may need, the goal is to stop people from abusing controlled substances.

“It is a problem – and people are dying every day from the opioid abuse,” Benz said.

Based on medication and dosage information in the system, users are able to see an overdose risk score for each patient, in order to make better prescribing decisions.

So far, Board of Pharmacy data shows about 41% of pharmacists and 26 percent of physicians are using the program.

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Dr. Jay Zdunek, chief medical officer at Austin Regional Clinic, said the program enables him to identify patients who may be abusing their medications.

“Its allowed me to be able to see patients who may be getting multiple prescriptions from multiple providers – that's a big no-no,” Zdunek said. “If you see a pattern, it clearly allows you to be able to stop prescribing or remove that patient from your practice panel.”

According to PMP data, 9,733,908 controlled substances were reported as dispensed between March 1 and May 31 of 2019 in Texas alone.

The program also generates a monthly report to alert doctors of patients who have received more than five prescriptions, from more than five prescribers, from more than five pharmacies.

“All physicians know that there is a problem and all physicians recognize that anything they can do to try to help alleviate the problem, they would like to do it,” Zdunek said.

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