In 2017, the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 249, implementing several changes to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (“PDMP”). Bill 249 held that:
- Beginning July 1, 2017, dispensers are required to enter prescription information for schedule II, III, IV, V controlled substances within 24 hours. This will give prescribers efficient access to information faster and allow the prescriber to make the best decision possible for patients.
- All prescribers will be required to register in the PDMP by January 1, 2018.
- Beginning July 1, 2018, prescribers are required to check PDMP before prescribing opiates or cocaine derivatives in Schedule II drugs or benzodiazepines.
The goal of the new PDMP was for physicians to be able to detect which patients were obtaining multiple prescriptions for highly addictive drugs and identify which practitioners were prescribing unlawful dosages.
Our Georgia-based business and healthcare law firm follows developments in healthcare law. Shelia Pierce, the opioid program coordinator and director of the PDMP for the Georgia Department of Health, contends that enrollment into the program has been very difficult. While 24,000 physicians have enrolled, 1,100 Georgia physicians have ignored the new law and have not enrolled in the drug monitoring program. The Georgia Composite Medical Board has not determined how to impose punishment on those physicians. Each physician would need to have a case built on them, have documents assembled, call people in to testify, and hold individual hearings. The Attorney General’s office is currently trying to determine how to proceed against the violators.
The Board of Nursing, the medical board, and the pharmacy and dental board were directed by the Attorney General to issue letters to the noncompliant doctors stating that the boards will take action if they do not enroll. However, the board cannot issue reprimands, orders, or sanctions to prescribers who still refused to comply with the enrollment requirements. This fact adds to the dilemma on how to punish noncompliant prescribers. Nonetheless, Shelia Peirce has stated that she would be willing to provide relevant documentation and testify at an administrative hearing to sanction physicians who are noncompliant.
Some lawmakers have been angered because there have been no repercussions against the prescribers who refuse to enroll in PDMP. Sen. Renee Unterman pushed for the new legislation and told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “the state is spending money to fight an opioid epidemic, and practitioners” are ignoring the work of the General Assembly and it makes Unterman believe “that [doctors] think they are held to a different standard.”
Even physicians who do not typically write prescriptions are required to enroll. Any prescriber with a Drug Enforcement Administration number is required to register. All physician assistants have complied with the PDMP and 98% of all dentist have complied as well.
Hamil Little PC
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