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In November 2012, the state Board of Pharmacy activated the Montana Prescription Drug Registry in an effort to more closely monitor controlled substances in the state.

“It’s a database that’s specific to controlled substances that are dispensed to Montana patients,” said Marcie Bough, the board’s executive director. “That data is reported from the pharmacies.”

The registry allows multiple prescribers to access the database in order to search for a patient’s prior prescriptions from other providers.

If someone arrived in the emergency room with an injury, but also recently received a prescription for a large dose of opioids from a primary care physician, the ER doctor would be able to confirm that prior prescription in the system.

The system would theoretically help prevent diversion and doctor shopping.

“It is a very valuable tool to help insure patient safety,” Bough said.

Currently, only 24 percent of all eligible licensees are registered for the program, but Bough is working with legislators and community stakeholders to increase that number.

“We hope that, as more people become aware of the program and see it as a tool, we’ll continue to see an increase in the number of registrants,” she said.

The Children, Families, Health and Human Services Interim Committee will spend the coming months exploring options for adopting uniform prescribing rules and expanding the current prescription drug registry.

The committee’s work is outlined in Senate Joint Resolution 20 — formed during the 2013 legislature to address statewide concerns with prescription drug abuse.

Lisa Robin, the chief advocacy officer for the Federation of State Medical Boards, said prescription monitoring programs are one of the most important tools for regulating drug abuse.

“That’s really the best way to ensure that patients are taking the medicines that they’re supposed to take,” she said.

Additionally, the Montana Pain Initiative is working to combine medical resources to improve the quality of chronic pain treatment in the state.

The organization was formed in 2005 as a task force for gathering information about the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

It receives money from multiple state and federal grants, which mainly contribute to the orchestration of the organization’s annual pain conferences.

This year’s conference will be from May 30-31 at the University of Montana in Missoula and will focus on bridging gaps between pain care providers.

“We must manage pain in an interdisciplinary way,” said Kaye Norris, program director at the initiative. “We can’t just rely on the medication.

“This year the conference is all about pain care, and we’re going to help them (providers) try and form their teams while they’re there,” she said.

Norris said that the specialization of medicine might be doing more harm than good, especially when it comes to treating chronic pain patients.

“Somewhere in medicine we separated mind and body,” she said. “We broke it, and now we’re trying to fix it.”

“Trying to get a handle on pain is really challenging,” she said. “This is something that is really big and needs everybody’s heads together to try and fix it.”


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