Cross Building where Maine's AG offices are located. photo by Ramona du Houx
Attorney General Janet T. Mills is calling on the federal government to close a loophole that keeps methadone clinics from reporting their dispensing data to state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs). Closing the gap will allow prescribers to avoid dispensing opioids to people who are also receiving treatment for opioid addiction.
PDMPs are statewide programs that collect patient-specific data on various controlled prescription medications, like highly addictive opioids, enabling prescribers, pharmacists, and regulatory boards to access this information. These programs are valuable tools to improve patient safety and health outcomes. PDMPs aid in the care of patients with chronic conditions and help identify persons engaged in high-risk behavior, such as doctor shopping and prescription forgery, indicating possible abuse of or dependence on controlled substances.
“Maine is considering legislation that would require prescribers and pharmacists to check the database when prescribing or dispensing prescriptions for controlled substances,” said Attorney General Mills. “The current federal rule blocking methadone clinics from participating in the PDMP is a dangerous barrier preventing medical professionals from accessing their patients’ full medical history.”
In the bipartisan letter signed by 33 state Attorneys General the chief legal officers called on HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to address the gap by revising the proposed Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records regulation to require methadone clinics to submit their dispensing data to state PDMPs. PDMPs already require strict confidentiality and may only be accessed by authorized users.
“Requiring methadone clinics to register and use the PDMP will reduce diversion, misuse and abuse of opioids and enable individuals with substance abuse disorders to receive comprehensive, safe and more effective treatment for their disorder. This will save lives,” stated Mills.
The letter, coauthored by Maine Attorney General Mills and Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, was submitted as a comment to Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records, 81 Federal Register 6988 (February 9, 2016). Attorney General Mills expressed appreciation to Attorney General Olens, all of the co-sponsors and to the Center for Lawful Access and Abuse Deterrence for their assistance in addressing this issue.