The state of Arizona has a law on the books that requires doctors to check a statewide database before they prescribe opioids or other controlled substances to patients. According to a report by the Arizona Department of Health Services, in December 2018, eight months after the law took effect, only 38% of doctors checked the database at least one time per month prior to prescribing a controlled substance. Part of the problem may be that there is little oversight.

An assistant director with the ADHS said it was primarily the responsibility of the physicians licensing boards, and the issue will not raise the attention of a medical board unless there is a complaint or other problem. The Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program was launched in 2009, but there was no effective law requiring doctors to use it until April 2018. The ADHS assistant director said the agency was aware of the low use rate but added that Arizona has made progress against the opioid epidemic in other ways.

There is a hotline for people who have opioid substance use issues, and the state has made naloxone more readily available. Naloxone is an antidote to opioid overdose. During the year 2018, there were 1,375 deaths from suspected opioid overdose statewide. Statistics on opioid overdose deaths were not tracked in Arizona until mid-2017.

For healthcare professionals and business owners operating in Arizona, it is important to understand and comply with all regulations to avoid violating the law. An attorney with experience advising pharmacists and other healthcare business owners might be able to help clients understand the requirements of Arizona law and implement practices to ensure compliance.

Source: KTAR, “Few Arizona doctors use prescription drug database, despite state law,” Bryce Newberry, 04/23/2019