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New prescription limitation law lacks guidance on illegal action

Q&A with Craig Buchan

published in The Oklahoman | April 7, 2015

Oklahoma House Bill 1948, which Governor Mary Fallin signed into law on March 31, 2015, amends the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Act by requiring medical providers to check Oklahoma’s prescription database when prescribing certain addictive drugs. Craig Buchan, a trial attorney who frequently represents licensed medical professionals in litigation, was interviewed by The Oklahoman about the law and its potential effect on physicians and dentists.

The amended law, which is intended to prevent patients from obtaining habit-forming medication from more than one physician, requires any registrant with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs to check the state database before prescribing or refilling pain medications, anxiety medications or muscle relaxers to any patient, at least once every 180 days, said Buchan. Providers must also document the results of those searches.

While the law requires medical providers to search the database to determine the medical necessity of prescribing the drug as well as assess the possibility that the patient may be unlawfully obtaining prescription drugs, he said parts of the law provide insufficient guidance for registrants in the event the database reveals drugs prescribed by other providers.

“It’s not clear how a physician determines whether the patient is unlawfully obtaining prescription drugs,” he said.  “The law is also silent on whether the physician is required to report the patient to law enforcement.  The various state boards governing providers will need to issue regulations to give guidance — preferably before the law going into effect in November.”