US health officials call for mandatory pill-tracking database to curb opioid abuse

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Top U.S. health officials are ramping up calls to require physicians to use a pill-tracking database before issuing prescriptions for addictive opioid painkillers, according to The Associated Press.

The effort is part of the Obama administration's strategy to gain control of the epidemic of abuse and death related to opioid prescription drugs, such as Vicodin and OxyContin.

The systems collect data on prescriptions for high-risk drugs to enable physicians and government officials to identify suspicious patterns and prevent physician "shopping," in which patients seek prescriptions from numerous providers to either fulfill their own addiction or to sell, according to the report.

However, most states don't require physicians to check the databases before writing prescriptions. Last week, the White House sent letters to all 50 U.S. governors recommending they require physicians to check the databases and require pharmacists to update drug-dispensing data on a daily basis.

However, nearly all state systems need improvements and up-to-date information. Additionally, physicians groups have complained the requirement to consult a database before prescribing medication for pain, anxiety and other ailments would be overly burdensome, according to the report.

Steven Stack, MD, president of the American Medical Association, warned use of the systems could be slow and difficult, and result in longer wait times for patients. "There really is a patient safety and quality-of-care cost when you mandate the use of tools that are not easy to use," Dr. Stack said, according to the report.

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