Program helps track prescriptions to ensure they aren’t being abused

OLYMPIA — Calling addiction to opiates and similar drugs “a scourge,” Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday approved legislation that seeks to make better use of a state-sponsored prescription monitoring program to fight “doctor-shopping” by addicts.

The bill (HB 2730) makes it easier for physicians and others prescribing drugs to get information about whether a patient has previously been prescribed so-called “opioid” drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Currently most doctors have to stop what they are doing and log into the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program database each time they write a prescription, a process that can take several minutes. The legislation instead allows health care facilities and doctor groups of at least five medical professionals to register as a group and import the state records directly into the practice’s internal system. That allows doctors to check on a patient’s past prescriptions statewide with a single mouse click.

“This measure will help more (medical) providers to access the state’s prescription drug monitoring program,” Inslee said as he signed the bill. “Expanding use of this important tool will help improve patient care by reducing opioid abuse and misuse.”

Inslee thanked bill sponsor Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, and added, “We know what a scourge this problem is in our society.”

Peterson’s legislation originally would have required every doctor to check the prescription monitoring database before every time they wrote a prescription for highly addictive drugs. But the medical lobby pushed back and the result was the compromise legislation Inslee signed Thursday.

The signing came two days after President Barack Obama announced policy changes making it simpler for doctors to prescribe drugs that make it easier for opioid addicts to stay off opioids. That was part of a broader package of measures, including $11 million for states to expand programs that assist addicts; $94 million for community health centers; and $11 million to increase access to naloxone, a drug that can save the life of a person who has overdosed on opiates.

Some 600 people per year are dying in Washington of overdoses of prescription opioids or heroin, which many addicts turn to when they can no longer get the prescription drugs. That’s more people than die in car accidents.

The Washington Legislature last year made naloxone widely available to first responders, family members of addicts and others who might need it to stop an overdose. Peterson, who was a co-sponsor of that legislation, said after Thursday’s signing ceremony that much more remains to be done.

“I’m really happy with the bill. It’s one of a hundred steps we need to take to address this crisis,” Peterson said.

Peterson said he intends to file additional related legislation next year that would fight overprescribing of opioids, make sure there is enough funding to treat addicts and ensure that lack of money does not prevent anyone from obtaining naloxone.

This story is part of InvestigateWest’s Statehouse News Project, a crowdfunded effort to provide independent reporting on the Legislature. Please support the project with a tax-deductible donation at

Talk to us

More in Local News

Mt. Baker visible from the summit of Mt. Dickerman on a late summer day in 2017. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)
Hornets pester hikers on popular Mountain Loop trails

“You cannot out run the stings,” one hiker wrote in a trip report. The Forest Service has posted alerts at two trailheads.

A view of a 6 parcel, 4.4 acre piece of land in Edmonds, south of Edmonds-Woodway High School on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Housing authority seeks more property in Edmonds

The Housing Authority of Snohomish County doesn’t have specific plans for land near 80th Avenue West, if its offer is accepted.

Nursing Administration Supervisor Susan Williams points at a list of current COVID patients at Providence Regional Medical Center on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Dozens of Providence patients in medical limbo for months, even years

About 100 people are stuck in Everett hospital beds without an urgent medical reason. New laws aim for a solution.

Emergency responders surround an ultralight airplane that crashed Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at the Arlington Municipal Airport in Arlington, Washington, resulting in the pilot's death. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Pilot dead in ultralight plane crash at Arlington Municipal Airport

There were no other injuries or fatalities reported, a city spokesperson said.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
County Council delays vote on requiring businesses to take cash

Concerns over information and enforcement postponed the council’s scheduled vote on the ordinance Wednesday in Snohomish County.

A girl walks her dog along a path lined with dandelions at Willis D. Tucker Community Park on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Spraying in Willis Tucker Park resurfaces debate over herbicides

Park staff treated about 11,000 square feet with glyphosate and 2,4-D. When applied correctly, staff said they aren’t harmful.

One of Snohomish County PUD’s new smart readers is installed at a single family home Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Mill Creek, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
PUD program seeks to make energy grid smarter for 380K customers

The public utility’s ConnectUp program will update 380,000 electric meters and 23,000 water meters in the next few years.

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

Most Read