Prescription Monitoring Program gets funding reprieve

The state program that allows doctors and pharmacists to track controlled substance prescriptions has gotten something of a reprieve, at least for now.

Money for the Prescription Monitoring Program had been slated to run out later this year, but a settlement between states and the drug maker Abbott Laboratories will provide Connecticut with $150,000 to bolster the program.

The program is funded with federal grant money and proceeds from settlements with pharmaceutical companies, and costs about $200,000 a year to run. Groups that rely on the system to track drug misuse had worried that the program could stop operating this fall if new funds weren’t secured.

The new money comes from a $1.5 billion settlement with Abbott over allegations that the company promoted the drug Depakote for unapproved uses. Connecticut will get about $6 million, according to Attorney General George Jepsen’s office. Of that, $3.9 million is for Medicaid claims, while another $499,000 covers money spent by state-funded benefit programs.

“The funding that the settlement provides for Connecticut’s Prescription Monitoring Program will directly benefit patient health by assisting pharmacists and physicians to better monitor potentially dangerous drug interactions and prescription errors,” Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said in a statement.

The department is also working on an application for a grant to help fund the program, spokeswoman Claudette Carveth said.

The prescription monitoring program provides a database of controlled substance prescriptions that have been filled, allowing prescribers and pharmacists to check if patients have been getting drugs from other sources.

Nearly all states in the country now have or are developing similar programs, something the federal government has been encouraging through start-up grants. But states have been struggling to fund their programs once the federal money runs out.

Linda A. Clougher, president of the American Society for Pain Management Nursing-Connecticut Chapter, who has been pushing to ensure that the program remains funded, praised the additional funding, but said the state needs a longer-term fix as well.

In other states, prescription monitoring programs are funded through general funds, licensing fees on health care providers, or fees assessed on health insurance companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, hospitals, or pharmacists, according to John L. Eadie, director of the Prescription Monitoring Program Center of Excellence at Brandeis University.