More than four million prescriptions have been uploaded to the state of Wisconsin's prescription drug monitoring program in the less than two weeks since it's come on line.
Wisconsin became the 45th state in the country to require doctors and pharmacists to put information about painkillers into a computer database on June 1.
"Doctors for years have been asking for this ability to monitor drug use by their patients," said Dave Ross, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. "And how can they monitor drug use by their patients if there are other prescribers they don't know about."
Pain medication represents roughly 20 percent of all prescriptions dispensed in Wisconsin. While the medical community is able to see patient records, it is bound by federal privacy laws that prevents it from sharing with law enforcement unless under a court order.
"Doctors now have a tool to monitor how much prescription drugs their patients are taking and patients will no longer be able to hide prescription activity they have with another dispenser or physician in the state," said Ross.
Nancy Meyer and John Norwell know the new program comes weeks too late to save their son, C.J., who suffered from mental health issues and prescription drug abuse when he died on May 18. The 30-year-old who loved art, World War II history and Muskie fishing, had perfected what's called doctor shopping, or going from medical facility to medical facility to get narcotics, his parents say.
"He would go to the emergency room and say ‘I was in a serious car accident’ and he would do this over and over and over again to get the pills," Meyer said. "His choices were based on that addiction and it's just so sad to see someone go through that."
C.J.'s parents said they are sharing his story to encourage families dealing with both mental issues and prescription drug addictions to seek help.
"Addiction envelops people, they're not themselves," said C.J.'s father, John Norwell. "Their mindset is getting their next medication."
Norwell said he believes the new prescription drug monitoring program can help future families avoid the grief he still feels.
"I think if this is done early on and is caught," he said, "there's a lot of hope for a lot of people."
For more information on Wisconsin's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, click here: http://dsps.wi.gov/pdmp