Statewide ‘doctor shopping’ prevention system reaches milestone

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A system set up to track prescriptions to reduce doctor shopping in Ohio has cut the practice significantly, according to state officials.

The Ohio Automated RX Reporting Systems (OARRS) tracks prescriptions of controlled medications across the state so doctors and pharmacists will know if a patient in front of them is abusing prescriptions.

Since its introduction nearly a decade ago under the Kasich Administration, OARRS has helped reduce doctor shopping, either directly or indirectly, by 89 percent, according to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy.

In addition, on Friday it was announced OARRS has twice so far in 2019 received more than 1 million inquiries from doctors and pharmacists in a single day.

The average number of weekday inquiries during the month of April was around 834,000, an increase from the average weekday amount of 64,000 in 2015.

And while that number may seem impressive, it can be misleading. Doctors and pharmacists can often enter the system multiple times a day for the same patient, resulting in multiple inquiries being logged for the same patient. So that 1 million isn’t necessarily 1 million people getting prescriptions.

According to the Board of Pharmacy, “Parsing out the number of unique patients queried per weekday (vs. total patient requests) is a number that cannot be generated at this time. This is primarily due to the volume of data that needs to be processed in order to obtain that number.”

One thing that is certain about the increase in inquiries since 2015 — more pharmacies are on board with OARRS. Right now, there are 233 independent pharmacies and 11 chain pharmacies that use the system.

The chain pharmacies include:

  • Discount Drug Mart (73 stores)
  • Kroger (201 stores)
  • Giant Eagle (114 stores)
  • Costco (14 stores)
  • Fruth (11 stores)
  • Ritzman (25 stores)
  • Acme (17 stores)
  • Meijer (41 stores)
  • CVS (384 stores)
  • Walmart (174 stores)
  • Rite Aid (212 stores)

Gov. Mike DeWine said there is another unnamed pharmacy chain about to join that list, which will further increase the volume of patients being tracked.

And while 1 million inquiries may not represent the real number of patients, the fact that more patients are potentially being impacted at all is the point officials are trying to get across.

While doctor shopping and prescription drug deaths may both be down, prescription drug limitations and tracking are ineffective when applied to narcotics sold illegally.

Fentanyl created in China and either shipped here or sent to Mexico for finalization and/or shipping continues to be a problem as it floods the state, according to DeWine and the Director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy Jim Carroll.

Carroll stood with DeWine as Friday’s announcement was made and praised Ohio for its successful prescription tracking system.

Ultimately, the OARRS program is part of the prevention prong of a three-pronged attack the DeWine administration is employing in the fight against opioids.

According to DeWine, prevention has historically lagged behind in Ohio, with the other two prongs (Treatment and Law Enforcement) having seen greater attention.

DeWine plans to do something about that by using the money recently provided in the State Operating Budget to educate school-aged children among other things.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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