Project could stop druggies from doc shopping | June 13, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - June 13, 2008

Project could stop druggies from doc shopping

Pack Foundation partnering with state to provide online prescription database

by Meghan Neal

Danville's Bob Pack has spent the last four years working on a project that would help put a stop to "doctor shoppers" - drug abusers posing as patients who hop from doctor to doctor to get their hands on addictive narcotics.

Last Wednesday he and California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced a partnership to create an online database that would hold millions of patient prescription histories.

Once complete the statewide database will be the ninth of its kind and the largest in the nation.

"It provides two levels of defense," said Pack; doctors and pharmacists will both have access to the database and can spot phony patients.

Pack became involved with the issue after his children Troy, 10, and Alana, 7, were killed in October 2003 by a driver under the influence of alcohol and narcotics.

"She was what I call the ultimate doctor shopper," Pack said. "She was going to numerous doctors, and with fake injuries, and they were giving her highly addictive painkillers.

"Just weeks before the crash she had received six prescriptions from six doctors for over 300 Vicodin pills. And then of course the evening before the crash she took a lot of them."

To his surprise, he learned that doctors did not share prescription information among themselves or have any easy way to look up patients' records.

"I said, 'How can that be?'" Pack said. "So that set me down the path on this project."

The state has a database in existence now called California's Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, or CURES. It's run and operated by the state Department of Justice.

But according to Pack, Brown and others, the current system is outdated. Requests for records must be faxed in and the whole process can take weeks to complete, they say.

The new system brings the database online and adds a search component so patients' records are instantly available.

This will help professionals spot red flags that could indicate a doctor shopper - like when someone visits multiple clinics or emergency rooms in a short period of time and requests frequently abused drugs like Vicodin, Xanax and Oxycotton.

"The main goal I think for most everyone, with this, is we really want to stop the abuse of narcotics," said Pack.

The database will be funded and built by the Troy and Alana Pack Foundation, which was created by Pack and his wife Carmen to promote traffic safety after their children's accident.

Last year the foundation and Kaiser Permanente co-funded a feasibility report that studied the security, privacy, technology and cost involved with the project.

Privacy advocates are concerned that the database infringes on patient privacy by allowing easy access to individuals' medical records. But Pack said the system is highly secure, and only doctors and pharmacists will be able to access the information.

"(They) will have to register with the Department of Justice verifying their licenses and who they are, and then they will be given a login password to the system," he said.

Computer engineers hired by the Pack Foundation have finished designing the platform and will begin building it as soon as the funding is raised.

The project's estimated cost is $3 million. Pack said he plans to court healthcare industries to help raise the funds; healthcare and insurance providers stand to gain from the new system, he explained.

Of the 34 million drug prescriptions reported last year about 2 million were fraudulently obtained, he said. That equates to about $100 million in lost revenue.

"So this system will help curb many of those prescription losses for the healthcare industry," he said.

But that's not why Pack has spent years working toward this.

"To me, I know it's going to save lives," he said. "If that system had been in place back then, maybe Troy and Alana would be alive today."

Pack hopes to raise the $3 million over the next four months, at which point the engineers will begin building the technology, which is expected to take about six months. Once the database is up and running, the Pack Foundation will officially donate it to the state of California.


Like this comment
Posted by Lucy
a resident of Danville
on Jun 13, 2008 at 12:13 pm

What an excellent project! The Pack Foundation is an awesome foundation and does a lot to help others in a way that they were affected.

I think this is a great idea and for them to donate to the state is another jump and the budget crisis won't be an excuse of why they won't do it.