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Prescription drug monitoring: when the focus is on doctors

As noted in a recent St. Louis Post Dispatch article, there is more than one type of drug monitoring program operative in states across the country.

What the paper terms a "traditional" model is a scheme in which physicians and pharmacists can access a government database tracking patient prescription information. Online data showing prescription history can alert medical actors to patterns of abuse and allow for intervention.

Authorities often tout such initiatives as important cogs in flagging individuals at risk and getting them help.

Less commonly noted is that persons perceived as abusing prescription drugs and tracked online can also be targeted by law enforcers in investigatory probes that yield criminal convictions. We stress that reality on our website at the St. Louis criminal defense law firm of Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry.

Another type of monitoring program focuses on providers rather than consumers, and has the same potentiality for doctors and pharmacists to incur criminal liability.

The Post Dispatch notes such a plan favored by Gov. Eric Greitens, which the state's chief executive endorsed via executive action earlier this year. That program would monitor dispensing histories "for irregularities, a method designed to squeeze out so-called 'pill mills.'"

Understandably, many medical professionals are not close fans of any such scheme, for this reason: Although uncovered data might snare some wrongdoers, it could also likely lead to a criminal focus on completely innocent practitioners who are making best-faith efforts to treat patients in an optimal way.

Although Greitens' plan has met some opposition, that has most prominently come from state legislators who question his ability to establish the program and allot funds for it without input from the Missouri legislature.

One ranking legislator estimates that it would cost about half a million dollars to get such a program up and running.

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