Iowa Physician Honored for Fighting Prescription Drug Abuse

The AMA MorningRounds recently contained sobering news about children dying of prescription drug overdoses in California. It was front-page news in the Los Angeles Times. The legislature called for more action by the Medical Board of California to mine a statewide database of prescriptions to identify doctors who “recklessly prescribe narcotics.” The medical board only investigates in response to complaints. The public perception is more proactive measures are urgently needed to protect people from prescription drug overdoses–which include children. California has a state database called CURES which could be mined for patterns of reckless prescribing, and the emotional testimony from parents about how their children died from accidental overdoses led to lawmakers calling for the medical board to change how it initiates investigations of physicians who might be prescribing narcotics recklessly.

Another item was about how 48 State Attorneys General called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make it harder for generic pain pills to be abused. The push is on to modify drug formulations that discourage abuse in order to prevent deadly consequences. The fight against prescription drug abuse is a team effort, requiring strong law enforcement, prescribing pattern monitoring, pharmaceutical company collaboration–and individual physicians who do their part.

Dr. Gary Hemann, MDphoto credit RadioIowa
Dr. Gary Hemann, MD
photo credit RadioIowa

Well, one Iowa physician was honored on March 12, 2013 for his efforts to stem the tide of deaths from prescription drug misuse. Dr. Gary Hemann, D.O., a Des Moines, Iowa emergency room physician was presented with a special state award for designing a program that could prevent prescription drug abuse, see link for details: Doctor wins award for program to reduce prescription drug abuse. The program combines Iowa’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PMP) with clinical guidelines for doctors on prescribing painkillers. The program will be available in future to other hospitals in Iowa.

This is yet another step on the path to real change in preventing prescription painkiller misuse.