System To Track Prescription Drugs Underused

Mar 28, 2013

Prescription drug overdose kills an average of three people per day in North Carolina. 

Credit NC Department of Health and Human Services

Researchers at UNC Chapel Hill say a statewide system designed to reduce those numbers – North Carolina Controlled Substances Reporting System (CSRS) – is effective - but grossly underused.

CSRS went into effect in 2007, following a legislative mandate, but of the 34,000 providers authorized to prescribe controlled substances, only a third have registered with the CSRS, and fewer than half of those actually use it.

Mariana Garrettson, a research scientist at UNC's Injury Prevention Center, says part of the problem with the system is that physicians have to look up a particular patient to get information about any possible patterns of abuse or misuse.

“In other states, there's a provision in the legislation to allow the system to monitor for unusual prescription patterns by patients and send a pro-active report to providers whose prescription patterns are concerning,” Garrettson says, “So they can look into it and figure out if there's actually a problem or not.”

Garrettson says a survey found doctors would use the system more if it generated the reports for them. Providers also asked for more frequent updating of the system. Currently, pharmacists are reporting into the CSRS weekly, but providers would prefer it be done daily.