Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Controlled substance drug dealers can run but can’t hide

From my client, The Integrated Justice Information Systems (IJIS) Institute:

Ashburn, VA—How can law enforcement catch a drug dealer who goes to dozens of doctors to obtain prescription drugs to resell on the illegal market? Twenty states have established centralized databases to track prescriptions of controlled substances. In those states, law enforcement, under controlled circumstances, can use their state’s database to identify those who go to multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions for the same drugs. The cost and time involved in drug diversion investigations has been dramatically reduced in states that have established prescription monitoring programs. The monitoring programs also help substance abuse agencies in these states to refer people who seem to have addiction problems to appropriate treatment programs. Recent efforts to plan, implement, and enhance these programs have been largely supported by the Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the Department of Justice.

A Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) is a system in which prescription data for designated schedules of pharmaceutical drugs are reported to a central point and incorporated into a database. Within the parameters established by a state’s law and/or regulation, this data is collected, requests for reports from those authorized by statute /regulation are fulfilled, and – ideally if the law/regulation permits – data is analyzed to spot trends that may signal an emerging drug of concern, diversion issues (e.g. “doctor shopping”) with reports going proactively to those who can respond (e.g. diversion investigators, physicians, regulatory boards, addiction treatment professionals).

This is why all the discussion about standards matters. This is how good data communications makes a difference in our lives. There are parasites who predate on human weakness and we need good systems to catch them.

A quick note to my friends in the civil liberties movement - you cannot defend liberty with unworkable computer systems. The defense of liberty is a political question. Politics mandates the architecture and the technical community develops the tools. It is a question of making all the pipes fit together.

No comments: