New Jersey recently launched their prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) on January 4. The public wasn’t notified of the launch until January 18. The 14 day delay isn’t significant given that State legislation requiring a New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program (NJPMP) was signed into law in 2007, but the Division of Consumer Affairs in New Jersey didn’t start collecting detailed data until September 1, 2011.
Why the 5 year delay? Thomas R. Calcagni, executive director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs told The Record that he couldn’t explain why the program took so long to gain traction. “This took far longer than anyone was comfortable with,” Calcagni said. “I can’t speak directly to the reason why.”
According to Calcagni, the program was even fast tracked:
Officials have collected data from 2,000 pharmacies within the state. The database now includes information on approximately 4 million prescriptions and counting. Health staff are required to submit data every 15 days. This initial launch is the first phase of a three-phase testing process. By May 2012, the Division of Consumer Affairs hopes to further enhance and expand the database.
“We all know that prescription medication, when used properly, can alleviate pain and illness. The darker, lesser-known side of prescription medication is that, when abused, it can be just as dangerous, addictive, and deadly as heroin,” Calcagni said in a press release. “Nationwide surveys show that many still mistakenly believe prescription medication is harmless – and this misperception is fueling a nationwide epidemic that’s sending thousands of New Jerseyans into addiction treatment centers each year, and 40 Americans to the grave each day. The NJPMP is an important tool in our statewide effort to halt the soaring problem of prescription drug abuse and diversion.”
Everyone seems really excited about the program. The head of New Jersey’s DEA division Brian Crowell said the program “will serve as an invaluable tool to thwart the spread of this significant drug threat.”
Perhaps one of the reasons it took New Jersey 5 years to bring the program online is that many pharmaceutical companies are based in New Jersey. The state government’s website says New Jersey is recognized as the “global epicenter of the pharmaceutical industry.” Fifteen of the world’s 25 largest pharmaceutical companies have facilities in New Jersey, including Bayer HealthCare, Wyeth, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Roche, Novo Nordisk, Merck and Schering-Plough.
John Moriarty of Sunrise Detox in Stirling (in Morris County) notes that prescription drug addiction is “bordering on pandemic” in New Jersey.
“Sunrise Detox treats over 100 patients per month in our Stirling, New Jersey facility. More than 70% of those drug detox patients are struggling with addictions to prescription medications. State and local governments need to realize prescription drug abuse in this state is bordering on pandemic!” Mr. Moriarty said.
Moriarty has seen the good PDMPs (prescription drug monitoring programs) like the NJPMP (New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program) can do. He was instrumental in getting a prescription drug monitoring act passed in Florida, where he sat on the Palm Beach County Substance Abuse Committee.
Florida, at one time, led the nation with the least restrictions on prescribing dangerous prescription drugs like oxycontin, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. The term “pill mill” describes the lax pain and pill clinics that popped up all over south Florida before Florida passed it’s PDMP Act. As Florida increased regulation, neighboring states experienced increases in pill mills and prescription drug trafficking. Georgia and Southern Ohio recorded very high levels of activity associated drug addiction problems, and had to draft their own stricter regulations to restrict “doctor shopping”. Some pain clinic and pill mill operators moved from state to state with the shifting regulations.
The last research out of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) showed prescription opiates like the ones most often cited for addiction by Sunrise Detox (oxycontin, hydrocodone and oxycodone) increased from 8% to 33% of all opiate treatment admissions (increase over a ten year period). Emergency department visits for prescription opiate use increased 111% between 2004 and 2008.
In New Jersey, SAMSHA data confirms the reports from Sunrise Detox. New Jersey state statistics show a 230 percent increase in prescription drug abuse since 2005.
- New Jersey’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (NJPMP)
- New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs press release
- NJ Prescription Monitoring Program
- New Jersey merges Mental Health and Addiction Services
- State program helps track prescription drug abuse
- NJ boasts of Pharmaceutical industry presence
- Sunrise Detox drug treatment program in New Jersey