I am writing in response to your March 1 editorial against House Bill 317, state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo's bill to authorize a prescription drug database. Currently, Pennsylvania is one of the only states in the U.S. without such a database. We cannot count the current Act 64 database, since it is only available to law enforcement for the purpose of prosecuting patients and doctors rather than keeping Pennsylvanians healthy. It is paper-based, making the data more than 60 days old by the time it gets entered, and entry is haphazard and not useable by physicians faced with difficult therapeutic decisions.
While Act 64 has been in force, Pennsylvania has entered the top tier of states with the most prescription drug overdoses per capita.
Rep. DiGirolamo's proposal enables physicians like myself, faced with patients previously unknown to them, to search the database to see exactly what, and how much of a potentially toxic drug has been prescribed to them previously, and potentially avoid such an error.
Not to pass such a bill is irresponsible, considering the fact that 1,800 Pennsylvanians are dying each year of prescription drug overdoses. Such overdoses are now the most common cause of accidental death in the commonwealth and the nation, surpassing deaths from street drugs, auto accidents, suicides and homicides.
The bill is supported by the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians, the Pennsylvania Pain Coalition and the Pennsylvania Medical Society. I hope that the Dispatch will reconsider its position and join them in supporting HB 317 in order to help physicians in their effort to contribute to the health of all in the commonwealth.
Dr. Robert S. Fawcett
Family Medicine Residency