LB - Coldwell Banker 1019

Home | Classifieds | Place Ad | Public Notices | Galleries | Kudos | Obits | Real Estate | Subscriber Services | Villager | Health Directory | Contact Us
The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : latest news : regional May 1, 2016

2/14/2012 1:46:00 PM
MATForce program urges doctors to sign up

Mark Duncan
Enterprise Reporter

The proven effectiveness of opioid-based pain relievers such as oxycodone and oxycontin has made them a favored choice for pain management practitioners.

In Yavapai County, doctors prescribed more than 11.4 million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone, 1.5 million carisprodol (Soma) tablets and 4.4 million benzodiazepine (Valium, Zanax) pills in 2011.

But the drugs' euphoric side effects leave them ripe for abuse, and creative users and drug dealers are going to remarkable lengths to obtain them, including prescription fraud, forgery and identity theft. And Yavapai County law enforcement officials blame the drugs for at least nine deaths of people aged 30 or younger over the past 15 months

A county undercover officer, who asked to remain anonymous because of his current assignment, said pain pills have largely replaced methamphetamine as the local drug of choice.

"We ask kids if they use meth and they turn up their noses," he said. "And it's hard to get a dealer to deal meth anymore because they know if they get caught they're going to prison" because of required sentencing laws for sale of the dangerous drug.

But when it comes to pills it's a different story.

"Whatever drug we're buying (on an undercover operation)," he said, "we ask if there's any pills. And the answer has been, 'Oh, yeah, we have plenty of pills.'"

The easy availability of the drugs stems in large part from the medical community's reluctance to sign up for and use Arizona's Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP). At last count, just 15.5 percent of practitioners statewide are registered to use the database, which keeps track of controlled substance prescriptions, who prescribes them, who uses them and in what amounts. Practitioners who register for the program can then consult the database in a five-minute online session to see the drug history of a patient.

The shortage of participation has led to the current "Sign up to Save Lives" effort on the part of Matforce, the county's anti-drug organization.

"The information is there for the gatekeepers to use," Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk said. "To me, the doctors and pharmacists ought to use it because, why not be part of the solution?

"Isn't that just good medicine to see if their patients are getting these drugs from somewhere else?"

Polk is also urging patients to encourage their doctors to use the program if they aren't already doing so.

In the past week, the task force has sent out about 350 letters to county medical professionals including doctors, dentists, pharmacists and even veterinarians, explaining the monitoring program and urging them to sign up and use the database. Matforce volunteers are making follow-up calls and Polk said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Polk's efforts have included meetings with corporate officials from several large chain pharmacies, whose local employees have said they were not allowed Internet access to consult the database. Legally, all pharmacies are required to report information about the drugs they distribute, but not to refer to the database when filling a prescription.

"Walgreens has made it mandatory (for its pharmacists) to register and plans to make it mandatory to use," Polk said. Fry's has already become a user of the system, CVS and Walmart told her they were planning to sign up and Safeway is still looking into participating.

She added that pharmacists she met with offered suggestions for improving the system, including the addition of "red flags," such as was the transaction in cash, was it a new patient, did the pickup come late in the day and was the request for an early refill.

A current court case illustrates the lengths that some will go to in order to obtain pain medications, and the effectiveness of using the PMP to fight abuse. In one case, Cottonwood resident Kelly Coplin, 27, allegedly defrauded doctors, pharmacists and used another person's identity to illegally fill numerous prescriptions, under multiple identities, for opioid-based pain pills. She faces a six-count indictment for charges including fraud, identity theft and possession of a narcotic drug for sale.

Coplin's arrest came about because a pharmacy employee made a call to the doctor who supposedly wrote a prescription and discovered he hadn't. Investigators then consulted the PMP and developed a pattern of Coplin's alleged prescription fraud.

Coplin has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is free on $25,000 bond.

Authorities tend to shy away from the question of whether use of the monitoring system should be mandatory. An aversion to an additional layer of regulation seems to be the cause.

"The problem is the climate," Polk said. "There's no support for legislation to make it mandatory."

And at least one patient is concerned that the program might have unintended consequences.

Sam Brunstein of Prescott Valley has suffered debilitating headaches for decades. His doctors have been unable to identify the cause of his pain, but he has found that judicious use of pain medications helps him get through the day.

"I fully support the concept of some method to cure the abuse," said Brunstein, who added that his own doctor employs safeguards such as occasional urine tests to make sure he isn't using legal or illegal drugs that would compromise his treatment. "The question in my mind is have they properly identified the problem they're trying to solve."

Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher said the system won't take away from doctors' ability to prescribe the pain meds to those who need it, but that something needs to be done about the spread of illicit use.

"It's ridiculously easy to get these drugs when people don't use the monitoring system," Mascher said. "We're seeing these drugs involved in all kinds of crimes. It's becoming an epidemic."

Taylor Waste

    Most Viewed     Recently Commented
•   Mingus recognized among America's best high schools (3358 views)

•   Blaze destroys RV and jeep Sunday; freeway traffic blocked (2852 views)

•   Horrors of human trafficking hit close to home in Verde Valley forum (with video) (2611 views)

•   Cottonwood gets first bee scare of spring season (2450 views)

•   New subdivision, 500 homes: Vineyards at Cottonwood coming soon (2342 views)

Article Comment Submission Form
Comments are not posted immediately. Submissions must adhere to our Use of Service Terms of Use agreement. Rambling or nonsensical comments may not be posted. Comments are limited to Facebook character limits. In order for us to reasonably manage this feature we may limit excessive comment entries.
Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Last Name:
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.

Advanced Search

HSE - We want to hear from you
HSE - Father Son Look a Like Contest
Find more about Weather in Cottonwood, AZ
Click for weather forecast

Submission Links
 •  Submit your feedback about our site

Find It Features Blogs Celebrate Submit Extras Other Publications Local Listings
Classifieds | Place Ad | Galleries | Kudos | Real Estate | Subscriber Services | e-News | RSS | Site Map | Find Verde Jobs | Contact Us
LB - Home Furnishings Direct 0329 70th Anniversary

© Copyright 2016 Western News&Info, Inc.® The Verde Independent is the information source for Cottonwood and Verde Valley area communities in Northern Arizona. Original content may not be reprinted or distributed without the written permission of Western News&Info, Inc.® Verde News Online is a service of WNI. By using the Site, ®, you agree to abide and be bound by the Site's terms of use and Privacy Policy, which prohibit commercial use of any information on the Site. Click here to submit your questions, comments or suggestions. Verde News Online is a proud publication of Western News&Info Inc.® All Rights Reserved.

Software © 1998-2016 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved