A new tool in the effort to combat the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs and the often-heavy reimbursement costs of fraudulently-obtained prescription medication borne by health insurance companies,-- the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program -- was unveiled Wednesday by state Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa.
The NJPMP, maintained by the state Division of Consumer Affairs, has been collecting detailed data from 2,000 pharmacies statewide since Sept. 1. Pharmacies provide data every 15 days on all prescription sales of drugs classified as controlled dangerous substances (CDS) and human growth hormone (HGH).
The result is a searchable database that includes detailed information on the sale of the high-risk drugs when they are dispensed in outpatient settings in New Jersey, or by out-of-state pharmacies dispensing into New Jersey. The information on each transaction includes, among other things: the patient’s name and date of birth; the dates at which the prescription was written and the drug was dispensed; the name, quantity, and strength of the medication; the method of payment for the medication; and the identities of the prescriber and pharmacy. The database now includes information on approximately 4 million prescriptions dispensed in New Jersey in the past four months.
“The New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program is one of several new tools in our statewide effort to halt the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs and promote fiscal integrity in the healthcare sector,” Chiesa said. “The database will help the Division of Consumer Affairs and other law enforcement agencies identify and investigate individuals and businesses suspected of fraudulently diverting controlled drugs for abuse. By highlighting the location, nature, and extent of abuse throughout the state, the information collected will also better inform our healthcare initiatives and addiction-treatment efforts.”
Patient information in the database is kept confidential in compliance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and Privacy and Security Rules. Under HIPAA and the state law that establishes the NJPMP, Consumer Affairs on Jan. 4, began allowing state-licensed prescribers and pharmacists to obtain free accounts to access and search the database through a secure website.
Registered practioners must certify they are seeking data only for the purpose of providing healthcare to current patients. Any practitioners who access or share NJPMP data for any other purpose are subject to civil penalties of up to $10,000 for each offense, and disciplinary action by the practitioner’s professional licensing board.
Consumer Affairs does provide case-specific NJPMP information to law enforcement agencies, pursuant to grand jury subpoenas or court orders and certifications that the information is requested for a bona fide investigation of a specific practitioner or patient. In addition, the division is required to notify law enforcement agencies or professional licensing boards if the division determines a prescriber, pharmacist, or patient may have violated the law or committed a breach of prescribers’ or pharmacists’ standards of practice.
“We all know that prescription medication, when used properly, can alleviate pain and illness,” Consumer Affairs Director Thomas R. Calcagni said. “The darker, lesser-known side of prescription medication is that, when abused, it can be just as dangerous, addictive, and deadly as heroin. Nationwide surveys show that many still mistakenly believe prescription medication is harmless – and this misperception is fueling a nationwide epidemic that’s sending thousands of New Jerseyans into addiction treatment centers each year, and 40 Americans to the grave each day. The NJPMP is an important tool in our statewide effort to halt the soaring problem of prescription drug abuse and diversion.”
The January 2012 launch is the first phase of a three-phase process during which the NJPMP will be expanded, culminating in approximately May. In addition to its current application for basic searches of patient- or prescriber-specific information, Consumer Affairs is developing procedures designed to enable more complex, statistical analyses. When fully expanded, the NJPMP will generate reports on geographical areas with unusual CDS or HGH prescription activity during a specific time frame; identify physicians in each county who prescribed the largest quantities of a specific drug during a given time period; and provide other information that can help identify and compare troubling patterns of CDS and HGH activity.