Bill lays out criminal charges for ‘doctor shopping’
By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor
A set of bills currently under consideration in the Alabama Senate are aimed at cracking down on those found guilty of “doctor shopping,” and doctors who knowingly contribute to prescription drug abuse.
The package of bills passed the Alabama House of Representatives House on April 9, and were sponsored by state Reps. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, and April Weaver, R-Brierfield. The bills were sponsored in the Alabama Senate by state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster.
The bills are designed to better track prescriptions for opioids, painkillers and other commonly abused drugs, prevent instances of “doctor shopping” and provide the State Medicaid Agency with tools to combat drug abuse among the patients it serves.
If passed, the bills will allow physicians and up to two of their designated employees to access a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database maintained by the Alabama Department of Public Health. The State Medicaid Agency would be provided similar access, as well.
Since 2006, anyone prescribing controlled substances in Alabama has been required to report the dispensing of those drugs to the database, and access to the system would allow doctors to track past prescriptions given to their patients.
The bills also would allow law enforcement to prosecute instances of “doctor shopping,” in which patients visit a variety of physicians in order to obtain prescriptions for the same or similar controlled substances, according to a House of Representatives press release.
Initial “doctor shopping” violations would result in a Class A misdemeanor with a fourth conviction in a five-year period rising to a Class C felony.
The bills also would allow for the regulation of pain management services in Alabama and would provide the Board of Medical Examiners the authority to publicize rules. In addition to requiring pain management services to only be provided at locations owned by physicians or registered with the secretary of state, the bill also would provide for license suspension and disciplinary actions in the case of a public health danger.
“It’s too easy to abuse the (prescription drug) process,” Ward said, noting he worked with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to draft the bills before the legislative session began. “I think this addresses the problem on both ends.”