State ranks near top in access to illegal pharmaceuticals

Adrienne Freeman Published March 30, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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In the regular session of the General Assembly in 2011, the Arkansas Legislature addressed the growing pharmaceutical drug crisis by passing Act 304 of 2011, commonly known as the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

According to the legislation, this program “enhances patient care by providing prescription monitoring information that will ensure legitimate use of controlled substances in health care, including palliative care, research and other medical pharmaceutical uses. This program seeks to collect, monitor and analyze information regarding controlled substances.”

“The advent of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program allows law enforcement to identify those individuals who are taking advantage of legal pharmaceutical sources to illegally use and distribute narcotics,” said Henry Boyce, 3rd Judicial District prosecuting attorney. “Controls are built into the program to certify that privacy concerns of law-abiding consumers are not jeopardized.”

Boyce serves on the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Advisory Committee, established in late 2012 in accordance with the implementation of the law. The mission of the advisory committee is to consult with and advise the Department of Health on matters related to the establishment, maintenance, operation and evaluation of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

A pharmacist with Wal-Mart’s corporate pharmacy-management team for almost 20 years, Eric Shoffner found that the work on the frontlines of a community pharmacy had drastically changed.

“I got into health care to help people,” he said. “I have always loved it.”

After returning to his hometown of Newport after a 31-year absence, Shoffner got to see firsthand the devastation that controlled drugs have caused in the lives of so many in northeast Arkansas.

“I was really shocked to see the amount of controlled drugs being used so routinely and so casually by so many. Our state Legislature and governor noticed, too. With Arkansas ranking at the top of the nation in hydrocodone usage and near the top for teenage narcotic use, clearly something had to be done. Through the meaningful actions of Gov. Mike Beebe’s working with the Four P’s (police, prosecutors, physicians and pharmacists), we finally have a tool in the Prescription Monitoring Program to help make a difference. The Arkansas PMP can single-handedly help stop the growth of physician and pharmacy shopping by illegitimate seekers and will help to keep legitimate patients from being needlessly detained, delayed or denied access,” Shoffner said.

“I have yet to have a single person in the Four P’s have anything negative to say about the PMP. I would add a fifth P here as well: the public. They, too, have played a part in this. Moms and dads, grandmothers and grandfathers can aid their health care teams by understanding what the PMP is and what it does for us all as citizens. Years ago, it was alcohol that kids would seek; then it moved to street drugs. Today it is pharmaceuticals. Most parents locked the liquor cabinets. We should take similar precautions with narcotic pharmaceuticals. Studies have shown that 56 percent of kids that use prescription narcotics get them from their own family medicine cabinets.”

Arkansas will sponsor the statewide Arkansas Drug Take Back challenge from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 26. For more information on local collection sites, visit

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