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The Montana Patient Safety Act Waiting to be Signed into Action


Updated: 04/12/11

House Bill 83, The Montana Patient Safety Act, has passed the House and the Senate and is now on the Governor’s desk waiting to be signed. The bill was introduced by Attorney General Steve Bullock and Representative Tom Berry. It comes after years of research into how to solve the prescription drug abuse problem. The bill will create a statewide prescription drug registry to curb abuse. Only controlled substances must be registered. Those include Ritalin, OxyCotin, and a list of others.

Prescription drug abuse kills over 300 Montanans annually. That’s more than highway accidents, cocaine, heroin, and meth abuse combined. The Attorney General calls it the Invisible Epidemic. One of the goals is to reduce a phenomenon called Doctor Shopping. This is when a person goes to multiple doctors for prescriptions and fills them at different pharmacies. By doing this, a person can get around the system to abuse prescription drugs.

Stuart Anderson owns Anderson Pharmacy. Since it is located in a medical building and the staff knows the customers, Anderson says abuse is not a common problem. However, he adds that you never know what happens once the drugs are in someone’s home. He explains that it isn’t uncommon for customers to report stolen drugs or simply losing their prescriptions. Prescription drug abuse is a very real problem. Anderson says people are going to be people and will find a way to abuse substances whether it is illicit drugs or prescription medication.

Lawmakers say it will take time to enact the new registry. Pharmacies are responsible for paying a fee toward the registry and reporting whenever a prescription for narcotics, stimulants, depressants, or any other controlled drug is filled. Similar legislation failed in Montana over a year ago. The difference this time was the price tag was more agreeable. Anderson says that the fee pharmacies must pay is much more affordable this time. Over 40 states have passed similar prescription drug registries.

Doctors and Pharmacists will have access to the registry to monitor their patients’ prescription history. Whenever someone accesses the registry a footprint will be left behind to ensure patient privacy remains intact.


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