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Capitol Update
By Senator Howard Marklein
January 18, 2019

Making Progress with the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program


Southwest Health and the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) recently hosted a roundtable discussion on the state’s opioid crisis and the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) at the Southwest Health EMS Building in Platteville.  Rep. Travis Tranel and I attended with a wide array of health care professionals, law enforcement, public health and others who have been fighting the battle against opioid addiction.
Since the 2013 legislative session, the legislature has been working on a series of bills to fight opioid addiction. This is our “HOPE Agenda” because it addresses our challenges related to Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education.  There is a terrific, comprehensive website that provides a wealth of information, including a list of the specific bills we worked on in this effort. You will find the site here: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/assembly/hope/legislation/
The net effect of our combined efforts is that the quantity of pills dispensed per capita have decreased by 37% between 2015 and 2018 in the counties of the 17th Senate District.  Iowa county (-44%), Richland (-43%) and Monroe (-41%) counties have seen the biggest decrease in prescription pills dispensed. The smallest change is in Lafayette county, but their numbers are still down by 29%!  We are making a dent!
Throughout the last five years, we have passed a series of bills that involve the PDMP.  We have changed and added laws to require identification when picking up narcotic and opiate prescription medication.  We have changed submittal requirements for those who dispense prescription drugs, especially the timeline in which they need to report so that pharmacists are recording right away so that the next pharmacist who searches for a name will know if a customer had just recently filled a prescription elsewhere.  We passed a law that requires law enforcement to upload information to the PDMP when they encounter inappropriate use and infractions related to opiates and narcotics to further strengthen the registry.  Finally, we passed a law to update reporting requirements for the PDMP as a whole.
The roundtable in Platteville was a terrific opportunity to discuss our results and the data that is available to us because of the PDMP. I firmly believe that we need to follow-up on the laws we create and change to determine whether they are having the intended impact.  The data we reviewed and the comments from those in attendance tell me that we are making progress.
The legislature’s efforts are only one branch of the army fighting this battle. The health care community – doctors and pharmacists – in concert with public health and local law enforcement have all played essential roles. We are trying to change culture and expectations. But it is not easy.
There is some concern that the significant decreases we have recognized in doses dispensed may be because addicts are moving from abusing prescription medication to illegal street drugs such as heroin. While this is definitely another piece of the puzzle, it is our hope that bringing attention to the role of prescription opioids and narcotics will bring attention and solutions to this element of the problem.  If we can prevent addiction and identify it early, we can help people before they get to street drugs. 
As we take a look at new legislation and the next state budget, I am certain that additional HOPE Agenda ideas will be discussed. I am grateful to the healthcare community, law enforcement, public health and PDMP participants who are working so hard on this issue. The follow-up and follow-through will enable us to make better decisions as we review future ways to address this crisis.