ALTOONA - Emergency room doctors in Pennsylvania may need more help dealing with the epidemic of prescription drug abuse.
Doctors received new guidelines this week aimed at reducing the amount of opioids prescribed for people in the emergency room. They call for ER physicians to limit pain prescriptions to 7 days, to consider providing non-opioid medications, and to choose the lowest potency if they do prescribe opioids.
The director of one local emergency department says the recommendations make a lot of sense and he and many of his colleagues already follow them.
At UPMC Altoona, Dr. Matthew Bouchard says he's careful not to prescribe narcotics to returning ER patients, but he has no way of knowing whether they're getting the drugs from several doctors.
"It's a huge knowledge gap that we have right now, so with that information, we would be much more able to appropriately prescribe medication to people who need it and not prescribe to people it might cause harm too," he says.
Dr Matthew Bouchard says Pennsylvania is one of the few states that doesn't give physicians access to a prescription drug database, listing patients medications. He says without that information it's difficult for doctors to determine which patients legitimately need pain medicine and which ones will abuse it.
Legislation to create a prescription drug database has stalled in the Pa. House and Senate. The American Civil Liberties Union opposes the measures, saying they infringe on people's privacy.