MATFORCE lauds doctors taking part in Rx monitoring

MATFORCE recently thanked 165 local medical practitioners for helping fight prescription drug abuse by enrolling in the state's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program with a letter and sign to place in their office that reads, "I signed up to save lives."

In January 2012, MATFORCE launched its "Sign Up to Save Lives" campaign, encouraging the medical community to use the state's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

The program permits doctors and pharmacists to check a statewide database of controlled substance prescriptions, a vital tool in eliminating prescription drug diversions, said Jeanne Wellins, public relations and projects coordinator.

At that time, only 14 percent of physicians were using the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, and now 28.5 percent of local medical practitioners have joined the program, Wellins said.

"Since launching our 'Sign Up to Save Lives' the support from the medical community has been outstanding," said Merilee Fowler, executive director of MATFORCE. "We still have a long way to go as MATFORCE's goal is to have 100 percent participation in the PDMP."

Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

In Yavapai County in 2011, enough painkillers were prescribed to provide each adult with 139 pills.

Prescription opioid pain relievers are the most commonly prescribed drug, the most commonly misused by youth and adults, and account for the majority of drug-related Emergency Department visits and poisoning deaths in Arizona.

"By regularly using the PDMP system, doctors and pharmacists can literally save lives. PDMP tracks prescriptions written for controlled substances," said Paul Smith, pharmacy director at West Yavapai Guidance Clinic. "By using the tracking system, practitioners and pharmacists can identify abusers who are receiving excessive amounts by 'pill shopping' from doctor to doctor."

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drugs can be as dangerous, addictive, and deadly as "street" drugs, like cocaine, crack, and heroin.  

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk said people should ask if their own doctor or pharmacist is using the program and urge them to do so.

"I would like to extend a sincere and personal thank you to each medical professional who has signed up and is using the PDMP," said Polk, MATFORCE co-chair. "The placard MATFORCE sent each of these practitioners can be proudly displayed in their offices, letting patients know about their commitment to the health and safety of our families, youth and entire community."

For more information about the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, go to www.azpharmacy.gov/pmp/.