Many Kentuckians looking to obtain prescription drugs for illegal sale and distribution have been traveling to Florida. While Kentucky has in place an electronic monitoring system which tracks prescriptions dispensed within the Commonwealth, Florida is one of only twelve states which does not. This means that in Florida individuals could visit several different doctors and receive multiple prescriptions for medication, a practice known as “doctor shopping.” This makes a state such as Florida an ideal place for those looking to traffic prescription drugs across the country.
Four years ago, I authored the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Drug Reporting Act (NASPER) to combat this problem of “doctor shopping” across state lines. This legislation was signed into law in August of 2005 and recently received $2 million in funding to begin implementation. While the program will require several million more dollars to run for the long-term, I was pleased that NASPER had, at long last, received the funding that it needs to begin operations and start saving lives.
NASPER establishes a federal grant program to assist states in the creation, improvement or expansion of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs and to foster the sharing of prescription data electronically among states. NASPER will help states establish a uniform electronic format for the reporting and sharing of prescription data as well as uniform criteria for access to the data by healthcare professionals and law enforcement officials.
In order to curb prescription drug abuse for the long-term, we need to ensure that our law enforcement officers have the tools they need to put drug dealers behind bars and that our healthcare professionals have the resources necessary to stop drug addiction before it begins. NASPER is a powerful weapon in the fight against prescription drug abuse which will allow interoperability among state-run prescription drug monitoring programs, allowing them to efficiently and effectively share information.
Stopping the “pill pipeline” and putting an end to the abuse of prescription drugs continues to be one of my top priorities in Congress. I have spent the past several years working to ensure NASPER receives the federal dollars it needs to be implemented, penning numerous letters to House leaders and officials in the administrations of both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. I also spearheaded a congressional hearing examining the importance of the program. During the weeks and months to follow, I will be working to ensure NASPER receives all the funding it needs to thwart drug abuse and stop the flow of prescription drugs across the country.
— Ed Whitfield is the U.S. Representative for District 1, which includes Logan County.