LA CROSSE, Wis. - In an effort to curb drug abuse, a redesigned prescription drug monitoring website will launch in Wisconsin Tuesday.
Doctors say nearly 80 percent of heroin users began by abusing prescription drugs.
As part of the HOPE agenda that was passed in Wisconsin last year, numerous changes are coming to what now is called the Enhanced Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
The first is a redesign of the website, with the goal of becoming more user-friendly.
Medical experts say the changes will put Wisconsin at the forefront of stopping drug abuse, before it happens.
Doctors at Gundersen say the current prescription drug monitoring site has been critical in getting painkillers like hydrocodone out of the wrong hands.
"We almost had a 30 percent reduction in those, and I think the PDMP was a big part of that,” Dr. Chris Eberlein said.
But as much as it has been helpful in tackling abuse, the current website needed updating.
"The old one was almost like an Excel spreadsheet,” Eberlein said.
The new enhanced prescription drug monitoring site has a number of improvements, both in design and features.
"If a patient is getting a sedative and you're prescribing a narcotic, it's got a history alert that comes up. So it actually informs the prescriber to watch out - this might be over-sedating,” Eberlein said.
"If you're seeing a patient in an emergency room or the hospital, you'll be able to now see that that patient has an agreement with another provider, and that will be very helpful information before you would consider prescribing controlled medication,” Dr. Cheri Olson, family physician from Mayo Health System, said.
Beginning April 1, a number of changes will also take effect. Providers and pharmacists will be required to check the database before prescribing, and the time required to enter the prescriptions into the database will be reduced from seven days to one.
"It wouldn't be uncommon for a patient to maybe fill a prescription one day at one pharmacy, two days later at another pharmacy, and maybe even another, and that data may not become available right away until its too late, so the more prompt reporting will definitely be a helpful tool,” Jennifer Tempelis, regional director of pharmacy for Mayo Health System, said.
Experts agree these changes will help better identify those abusing prescriptions.
"Hopefully this tool will help show us patients who are legitimate and honest and using their medications as prescribed,” Olson said. “But sort out the patients who are using these medications illegally or irresponsibly."
Police departments will also be included in the new changes to the program.
If law enforcement officers find someone using prescriptions illegally, that will be entered into the system for doctors and pharmacists to see.
In addition to doctors and pharmacists, nurses and drug counselors will be now be able to check prescriptions on the new site.
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