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Politics & Government

Local Pharmacies Prep for Prescription Drug Database

In an effort to cut down on prescription drug abuse, the state is working to put together the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions Program (ABC-MAP) oversight board by Jan. 25. Part of the law that created the board will also create a prescription drug database.

The database, which is expected to be available in June, will allow pharmaceutical prescribers and dispensers to see when and where a patient receives and fills a prescription. This aims to prevents patients from “doctor-hopping” to get meds. But some Pennsylvania pharmacists haven’t heard of ABC-MAP, and those who have, have a lot of unanswered questions.

Pat Epple, CEO of the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association (PPA), said the organization will work with pharmacists in the state to implement new data entry software, but there hasn’t been much communication so far.

“I’m not completely optimistic that they [the state] are going to make that June 30 deadline,” she said. “I’d love to see that be the case. I don’t think for pharmacies, it will be that much of a struggle to make the transition.”

Epple said the PPA is waiting for the government to sign a deal with a software vendor before notifying state pharmacists about the database implementation.

“We have not shared too much as of yet other than a basic announcement that the bill passed and that we’d be working with them because we really don’t want pharmacies to panic,” she said.

But Joe Bettinger, pharmacist and owner of Hieber’s Pharmacy in Oakland, already has concerns. He’s onboard with the database, but said he’s worried about the software, as dispensers will be required to enter information into the database within three days after a prescription is filled.

“I’d like to have something installed in my software so that when I fill a prescription, say for Vicodin – brand or generic doesn’t make a difference – the information would go to where it needs to be and that would be it,” he said. "…For me to have to run a report every 72 hours, that’s going to be a hassle.”

According to Epple, the software will allow data to be uploaded automatically and won’t add to the pharmacist’s workload.

On the other hand, Chris Antypas, pharmacist and co-owner of Asti’s South Hills Pharmacy, said he doesn’t expect the new software to cause too much disruption.

“We’re frequently dealing with changes and regulations on a pretty frequent basis,” he said. “When the time comes, I’m sure everyone will be up to speed in a short amount of time.”

Antypas also said he’s glad Pennsylvania is catching up to other states, such as Ohio and New York, that have similar monitoring systems and he looks forward to using it.

“Pharmacists and physicians are held accountable for what they do, prescribing and dispensing,” he said. “So if we’re going to be held accountable, provide us with all the tools to make the most informed decision.”