Statewide Rx reporting system reaches milestone, OH lags behind in opiate prevention efforts

Ohio Statehouse News

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – For years, we have been reporting the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS) has been tied to and reflects a steady reduction in the amount of doctor shopping in Ohio.

The system tracks prescriptions of controlled medications across the state so that doctors and pharmacists will know if the patient in front of them is abusing prescriptions.

The program started under the Kasich Administration nearly a decade ago.

Since it’s introduction, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy says OARRS has helped reduce doctor shopping, directly or indirectly, by 89%.

Friday, it was announced the tracking system reached another milestone.

Twice so far in 2019 the system 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. That’s a lot compared to the number of inquiries that were made in 2015 when the average weekday amount was around 64,000.

It is difficult to get to exactly what that 834,000 or even the 1,000,000 inquiries numbers really mean, though.

Here’s an example: You go to your doctor and he looks up your prescription history; that’s 1 inquiry. If he closes out of the program then has to go in again later because he wants to look at something else or forgot what he was looking for in the first place, then that’s a second inquiry. Then the pharmacist looks you up when the go to fill the prescript, that’s a third inquiry.

You probably see where I am going with this; just because there are 1 million inquiries a day doesn’t mean 1 million people are getting prescriptions filled.

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

Okay, not a huge deal, but there is something else to consider when looking at the fact that more inquires are happening; more pharmacies are on board.

Right now, 233 independent pharmacies and 11 chain pharmacies are using the system.

The chain pharmacies include: Discount Drug Mart (seventy-three stores), Kroger (two hundred and one stores), Giant Eagle (one hundred fourteen Stores), Costco (fourteen stores), Fruth (eleven stores), Ritzman (twenty-five stores), Acme (seventeen stores), Meijer (forty-one Stores), CVS (384 stores), Walmart (174 stores), and Rite Aid (212 stores).

Another unnamed pharmacy is allegedly about to join that list of chain pharmacies, according to Governor Mike DeWine, which will further increase the volume of patients being tracked.

That will undoubtedly increase the average inquiries even further.

The number of inquiries being so large is the shiny object. Being able to say 1 million of anything is significant, but you could make the mistake of diminishing that significance when you look at the fact that the real number of patients impacted by that number is far less.

With that said, the fact that more patients are potentially being impacted at all is the point officials are trying to get across.

The fight against prescription opiate abuse is well along in the grand scheme of things; doctor shopping is down, prescription drug deaths have fallen, etc.

The real fight is in the streets where prescription drug limitations and tracking are ineffective as applied to illicit narcotics sold by dealers.

Fentanyl created in China and either shipped over from there 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.

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