Pharmacy   Massachusetts residents face a new routine when they pick up certain prescription drugs at the pharmacy on Jan. 1.

Under a law passed last summer, they will have to show a driver's license or another approved ID before the druggist can give them prescriptions ranging from addictive opiates to certain medicines for diarrhea. Their purchases will be recorded in a massive database that will include their names, addresses and the kinds and amount of pills they take.

The goal of the law is to combat the growing problem of prescription drug abuse, particularly among teens and young adults. According to one federal survey, Massachusetts ranked 8th among those 18-to-25 who have used drugs not prescribed to them.

The law is similar to legislation passed in 33 states and being initiated in another 10 states. Studies suggest the programs can help combat prescription drug abuse, but the law has other consequences that play against the national debate about the size and reach of government.

It will require more clerical work for doctors and druggists as the number of prescriptions monitored expands from the current 3.5 million a year to an estimated range of nine to 11 million.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health will take on expanded responsibilities. A new set of committees will be created to determine policies and practices. Schools may have to develop new drug awareness programs for their students.

The new law also will cost more, but by how much remains uncertain.

Rep. Harriet Stanley, D-West Newbury, chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Healthcare Financing, said that when the bill was under consideration, the DPH said the direct costs of the new monitoring system - estimated at between $1.35 million and $1.4 million - would be absorbed by the department.

But the department later requested $528,000 to roll out the programs mandated by the bill.

Read entire article here