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Drug Shoppers to be tracked by database

by Sarah Lundyand Alisa LaPolt Saturday, Jan. 10, 2004 at 12:39 PM

Rush Limbaugh isn't the only doctor shopper -- a Florida truck driver (political affiliation not given) was arrested for drug shopping in December. It's a problem so pervasive that the state legislature is considering a multi-million dollar prescription tracking database.

Truck driver accused of doctor shopping
News-Press.com, January 9, 2004

Matthew Konosky is accused of doctor shopping for painkiller prescriptions he filled at more than a dozen pharmacies throughout Lee County, according to Fort Myers police. Investigators caught up with the Fort Myers truck driver's pattern in December when a pharmacist at Sam's Club alerted police about Konosky.

On Wednesday, Konosky, 38, turned himself in to police and faces a charge of withholding information from a physician in order to obtain a controlled substance from more than one physician within a 30-day period without disclosure. "The burden is on him to tell the doctors," said Fort Myers Police Detective Kelly Witt.

Between May 2002 and last month, Konosky had 60 prescriptions -- mostly for the painkillers Oxycodone and hyrdocodone -- for more than 1,700 pills, according to his arrest report. "It's a middle of the road doctor-shopping case," Witt said. "I've seen less and I've seen more."

A woman who answered the phone at Konosky's home said they had no comment. Konosky's case is nothing new.

Investigators in Palm Beach County are looking into whether radio talk-show host and commentator Rush Limbaugh doctor shopped for painkillers. To combat this statewide problem, state officials want a database that would track all doctors who write prescriptions and the patients who take them. It would be funded in part by Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin.

The drug manufacturer agreed last year to fund more than $2 million for the database as part of its settlement with the state, which was investigating its marketing practices for the drug.

The Senate last year approved legislation that would establish the monitoring project, but the House failed to follow, due to concerns over a patient's privacy. Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said he will again file a bill when lawmakers return in March for their legislative session.

Dr. Mary Stegman said patients who doctor shop not only hurt themselves but hurt those who honestly need pain management. "I think the bigger problem is being sure the patient who needs the medication gets the medication," the Fort Myers doctor said, adding she is in favor of the database.

Dr. Coy Irvin, a Pensacola family practitioner who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he no longer prescribes the painkiller OxyContin because he fears the patients are doctor shopping.

A statewide database would tell him when a patient last had a prescription filled -- especially those that are highly addictive -- and flag those who doctor shop. What's more, the tracking system would identify those physicians who too frequently write prescriptions.

"A database would allow us to know whether they (the patient) are living up to their end of the bargain and we're living up to ours," Irvin said.
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