Prescription drug abuse is epidemic across the nation, and South Carolina has not been immune. According to a 2013 report from the State’s Inspector General, South Carolina ranked 23rd per in per capita opioid painkiller prescriptions and overdose deaths in 2011. To address this epidemic, the South Carolina legislature passed legislation in 2006 creating a controlled substance databank that prescribers can voluntarily use. In the coming year the use of this databank may very well become mandatory based on recent recommendations of the Governor’s Prescription Drug Prevention Council.
The South Carolina Prescription Monitoring Act of 2006 requires dispensers to submit information related to prescriptions for controlled substances to a data bank, operated by DHEC’s Bureau of Drug Control, referred to as SCRIPTS (South Carolina Reporting & Identification Prescription Tracking System).
SCRIPTS provides information about a patient’s history of controlled substance prescriptions, including the date a prescription was dispensed, whether the prescription is new or was a refill, the quantity of the drug dispensed, and the estimated number of days supplied. Dispensers are required to provide this information for any prescription filled for Schedule II through Schedule IV controlled substances, which would include some of the most frequently abused prescription drugs (e.g., OxyContin, Vicodin, and Xanax). Thus, the SCRIPTS data bank is a great resource for tracking prescription drug use and fighting drug abuse.
SCRIPTS allows physicians to access information regarding a patient’s use of controlled substances. Under current law, physicians are not required to access the databank, and according to the Governor’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Council’s findings, only about 20% percent of physicians currently use it. That could change if the Council has its way.
The Council, comprised of representatives from various state agencies and members of the Board of Medical Examiners, Board of Nursing, and Board of Dentistry, was established by the Governor in March of 2014 and tasked with developing a comprehensive state plan to address prescription drug abuse. In response to this crisis, the Governor’s Council is recommending that the Prescription Monitoring Act be amended to require all practitioners prescribing controlled substances to use the SCRIPTS program.
Based on the Council’s findings, voluntary use of the SCRIPTS program has not been sufficient and required participation is necessary for it work. The Council’s recommendation seems to be a cost-effective, relatively simple step toward decreasing prescription drug abuse in the State. Whether the legislature will act on this recommendation remains to be seen.
Prescribers and medical practice managers should follow this proposal carefully so that they are prepared to implement a compliance and training program if the proposal is accepted.