In the ongoing battle to limit, the Obama Administration along with the nation’s top health officials are increasing the pressure on doctors to utilize a nationwide database that tracks the frequency and amount of opioid painkillers they prescribe to their patients.

In this latest effort to stem what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has called “an opioid epidemic” throughout the country, U.S. doctors who have knowledge and experience with the database see it as an impediment to their practice, not to mention that it has the potential to cause patients to go through prolonged periods of pain.

As of now, use of the prescription database is not mandatory though that may soon change.

According to a CBS News article, the data that is collected in the database can show high-risk prescriptions that have been made to patients, and in turn viewed by doctors and government officials in order to spot suspicious patterns1.

The goal of this database is to stop patients from “doctor shopping,” in which they receive multiple prescriptions from different doctors for a variety of reasons. Those reasons can include patients who want an increased amount of opioids to treat their pain away from a doctor’s supervision, individuals who need to satisfy a drug addiction, and those who want to sell opioids on the black market.

This comes in conjunction with the CDC’s recent release of its first-ever national guidelines for prescribing opioids, which also urges doctors to try non-opioid painkillers, physical therapy and other methods for treating chronic pain, along with warning labels issued on each prescription bottle.

However, even with the highly illegal activity of selling prescription painkillers on the black market, in most states, doctors are still not required to check the database before writing prescriptions.

Nonetheless, Michael Botticeli, who directs the Office of National Drug Control Policy, says the databases are “a proven tool for reducing prescription drug misuse and diversion.”


As innovative as a database for prescription painkillers can be, with close to a million doctors in the U.S. who span across all 50 states, not everyone is bound to be on the same page.

“There isn’t yet a single state in the country that has an optimal prescription drug monitoring program that works in real time, actively managing every prescription,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a recent press conference.

In addition to the database being an all-state system requiring improvements, government health officials stress more up-to-date information is what’s truly needed.

Still, positive progress has been made with the database, particularly in Kentucky, New York, Tennessee, Connecticut, Ohio, Wisconsin and Massachusetts, where its use is mandated.

In Kentucky, for example, deaths linked to prescription opioids fell 25 percent, along with other improvements designed to curb inappropriate prescribing. This occurred in 2012 after Kentucky began requiring doctors to track their painkiller prescriptions on the database.

Supporters of the database stress that its benefits can go far beyond monitoring opioid prescriptions stating that the same information can help prevent drug interactions between opioids and other medications, such as anti-anxiety drugs like Valium and Xanax, both of which when combined can prove deadly.

Nonetheless, experts say the sooner all states begin to use the prescription database, the sooner opioid use and abuse will begin to fall nationwide.


As the title suggests, doctors balk and will continue to do so at the idea of government intervening in drug prescriptions, even if it is to help reduce opioid-based addiction and overdose.

One main reason involves the database program itself, and how it can be slow and difficult to use, causing patients to face longer waits and less time with their physicians.

According to Dr. Steven Sacks, president of the American Medical Association, he believes patient safety and quality-of-care could suffer when tools such as the prescription database are forced upon physicians, wherein the entire treatment process could dramatically slow down.

Those in the medical field additionally fear the database will discourage doctors from prescribing the drugs even when appropriate, leaving patients to suffer in pain.

Dr. Gregory Terman, a physician located in Washington State states that when working with the database, it can take him up to three minutes to log in to the system he uses for his practice.

While many physicians support the technology of the database, they also feel for reasons of time and efficiency that the system should not be required. As to the database’s overall use throughout the U.S., Terman states, “If it was easier to use, more people would use it.”


Another area of concern could directly affect the patient and their personal health information (PHI). Should a breach occur within the database from it being hacked, a patient’s PPI could be exposed on many levels, including publicly.

Knowing this, a prescription database needs to heavily secured so as to not put a patient and their medical past, or future, into the hands of anyone other than their doctor.


Without a doubt, we as a country have crossed over into unfamiliar territory. When we once would have thought the pain medication our doctors prescribe us would be beneficial to our recovery, we now find that medication can cause great long term harm. As to whom is to blame, who knows?

The real truth is that solutions to the epidemic of over prescription and addiction is being addressed in an aggressive multi-pronged government-based attack. With prescription databases currently being established in California and Maryland among other states, the U.S. can potentially become a much safer country in which a painkiller’s exclusive role is to help a person in pain, not addict them.

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  1. Doctors resist new painkiller prescribing procedures, CBS News. Retrieved 2016.

Doctors Balk at New Prescription Drug Procedures