Gov. Tom Corbett Monday signed into law Senate Bill 1180 (Vance-R-Cumberland) (now Act 191) and House Bill 1846 (Quinn-R-Montgomery) (now Act 184), fulfilling recommendations developed by the Heroin and Other Opioids Workgroup that he convened in May to address the heroin and opioid prescription drug abuse problem in Pennsylvania and completing the final piece of his Healthy Pennsylvania plan.
Gov. Corbett approved the workgroup recommendations in September, which included the expansion of current initiatives, collaboration between both public and private sectors, and working with state lawmakers.
“Prescription drug monitoring will provide access for healthcare professionals to enhance a patient’s coordination of care so that we can support individuals who suffer with prescription drug addiction,” Gov. Corbett said. “The other legislation I’m signing today will reform physician dispensing in the state’s workers’ compensation system, saving Pennsylvania employers approximately $13 million annually in the cost of their workers’ compensation premiums.”
Senate Bill 1180 is the final piece of Gov. Corbett’s Healthy Pennsylvania plan, announced last September, to be fully approved and enter implementation. Sponsored by Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland), it establishes the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions Program (ABC-MAP) database within the Department of Health.
The electronic data monitoring system will maintain a record of controlled substances that are prescribed and dispensed in the Commonwealth, for the purpose of improving patient care.
“A strong and effective prescription drug monitoring program will result in better health outcomes for Pennsylvanians,” Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Carrie DeLone said. “Healthcare professionals will now be able to check if their patient recently had a prescription filled and either safely prescribe medication or identify individuals who may have a prescription drug addiction so that they can be properly referred for treatment.”
The bill also creates an ABC-MAP board that will oversee the establishment and management of the program. Board members will include the secretaries from Health, Human Services, Drug and Alcohol Programs, State, and Aging, as well as the Insurance Commissioner, State Police Commissioner, Physician General and Attorney General.
House Bill 1846, sponsored by Rep. Marguerite Quinn (R-Bucks) reforms the practice of physician dispensing in the state’s workers’ compensation system to save Pennsylvania employers approximately $13 million annually in the cost of their workers’ compensation premiums.
“Pennsylvania employers shouldn’t have to pay a higher cost for drugs dispensed by a physician compared to the same drugs dispensed at a pharmacy,” Gov. Corbett said. “House Bill 1846 creates an equitable system that preserves the doctor-patient relationship while improving the commonwealth’s ability to attract and retain businesses.”
The cost difference between a prescription that is pharmacy-dispensed and the same one that is physician-dispensed spurred this legislation. For example, according to the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute, one Percocet costs $0.64 when dispensed at a pharmacy, but costs an employer $3.11 when physician-dispensed as part of a workers’ compensation case.
“In recent years, the practice of physician dispensing has driven up workers’ compensation costs with no improvement in the health outcomes for the injured worker,” Labor & Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway said. “House Bill 1846 removes the incentive to over-prescribe costly drugs, helping to slow the growing dependency on powerful painkillers, and curbing the abuses and dangers of patients visiting multiple physicians to obtain the same prescription medication.”
While House Bill 1846 places certain limits on physician dispensing, it does not limit prescriptions by a physician nor prohibit the dispensing of drugs by an outpatient provider. The provider can continue to prescribe as they have in the past and the patient will have immediate access to medication if deemed necessary by their treating physician.“I want to commend the governor for his swift action on these two bills,” Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Gary Tennis said. “Prescription drug monitoring will quite simply, save lives; while the reforms instituted with physician dispensing will complement the efforts already underway to reach general practitioners, emergency rooms and dentists and help to monitor the frequency and effectiveness of the prescribing of opioids.”