Since the launch of the state’s electronic monitoring program early last year, officials at the Kansas Board of Pharmacy have fielded more than 156,000 digital queries from a growing number of doctors and pharmacists who use K-TRACS to check on possible prescription abuse by their patients.
Despite its apparent success, the prescription drug monitoring program faces extinction as early as this fall when the federal grant money that has sustained it ends, said Christina Morris, the program’s director.
“If we don’t find funding,” she said, “we shut down.”
K-TRACS began with a two-year, $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice that ends in October. Morris said replacement funding hasn’t been identified.
The National Association of State Controlled Substance Authorities also provided about $32,000 for the program, but those dollars are dedicated to special projects.
The Kansas Legislature authorized the monitoring program in 2008, but it took awhile for the federal funding to materialize so it could be implemented.
Kansas doctors and pharmacists began querying the database in April 2011. Since then, the number of registered users has grown from about 850 to about 5,500. The system allows the medical providers to log on to the computerized database using a software called RxSentry and review the prescription histories of their patients. Without the K-TRACS system, it would be difficult for the doctors or pharmacists to know if the patients already had similar or the same prescriptions from other providers.
Kansas is one of 49 states to authorize a prescription drug monitoring program, according to the Alliance of States with Prescription Monitoring Programs. Missouri is the only state without one.
'Growing, deadly epidemic'
A primary purpose of the programs is to reduce what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called the “growing, deadly epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse.”
Prescription painkiller overdoses killed nearly 15,000 people in the United States in 2008, according to the agency. That’s more than three times the number of people killed by those drugs in 1999.
The prescription drug databases track individual drug purchases, giving pharmacists, doctors and regulators a tool to see a patient’s complete pharmaceutical record.
The aim is to prevent so-called “doctor shopping,” when addicts obtain overlapping prescriptions from a number of physicians and fill them at various pharmacies.