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Politics & Government

PA Department of Health Says Drug Tracker Is Behind Schedule

The state Department of Health says a newly-authorized system to track powerful painkillers and other drugs won't arrive on schedule.

The prescription drug monitoring program was signed into law last October to establish an online database by June of this year. But that's not going to happen, and there's no word on when the new system will be ready.

"This is a massive undertaking," said DOH spokeswoman Amy Worden. "The Department of Health is essentially building a program and a very large database from the ground up."

Not only is the job big, it wasn't funded. Lawmakers approved legislation to create the database but later realized the money hadn't been allocated to pay for it.

Worden said the agency still must hire someone to set up the database, convene its governing and advisory boards, and train doctors and pharmacists to use the system.

The prescription monitoring database expansion was sold to lawmakers as a way to cut down on the opioid abuse that is so frequently cited as the main reason for heroin overdose deaths. Supporters said an online database that included opioids would prevent scamming by patients, pharmacists, and doctors alike