Along with marijuana possession, prescription drug crimes rank high on the list for most prosecuted drug offenses. In late April, the Georgia House and Senate agreed to a bill that will establish a system for monitoring the drugs prescribed and dispensed in the state.
The Patient Safety Act, Senate Bill 418, places the task of monitoring prescription drugs under the Georgia Board of Pharmacy. Once signed into law, officials will begin creating an electronic database of drug prescriptions and dispensation across the state.
The information will only be available to doctors and those overseeing the database. Law enforcement will not have unlimited access. Rather, police officers and detectives would need a subpoena to access Georgia's prescription drug database.
Proponents have defended the bill, claiming pill monitoring is only meant to prevent "doctor shopping" by patients and over-prescribing by doctors.
Even with limited access by law enforcement, the bill has met with intense opposition from some, who have accused the government of violating patient privacy rights by collecting and monitoring sensitive information pertaining to private citizens.
Many of the states around Georgia have already passed similar laws, allowing for the creation of prescription monitoring programs. In Cobb County, officials in some cities are combating prescription drug crimes by preventing the establishment of pain clinics.
More negatively referred to as "pill mills," these pain clinics are unaffiliated with hospitals, drug treatment centers or other local institutions. They are known for their willingness to fill prescriptions with minimal patient screening.
For those suffering, and without the money to pay for a hospital visit, these pain clinics can be a blessing. For the majority of Georgia lawmakers, they represent a potential threat - something that, if allowed to operate, must be watched.
Does this open the door for the government to ration pills and control distribution?
- Prescription Drug Abuse a Moving Target (Atlanta Journal Constitution)