Traditionally, state legislatures implemented Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (“PDMPs”) to assist prescribers, pharmacists, and law enforcement in identifying patients likely to misuse, abuse, or divert controlled substances. PDMP databases contain a catalog of a patient’s recent controlled substances that pharmacies have filled, including the date, location, the quantity of medication filled, and the prescribing health care provider. Prescribers in Pennsylvania have a duty to query the PDMP before prescribing controlled substances in most clinical settings. Pharmacists have a similar duty in Pennsylvania to dispense safe and effective medication therapy to patients and to screen patients for potential signs of misuse, abuse, or diversion.

However, Pennsylvania’s most recent PDMP laws, The Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions Program Act (“ABC-MAP” Act) and the Safe Emergency Prescribing Act (“SEP” Act), restrict a pharmacist’s access to the PDMP in the hospital’s emergency room. Pharmacists need PDMP access to screen for drug-drug interactions and for potential misuse, abuse, or diversion. Pharmacists’ need for this tool is especially great in light of the current drug epidemic.

As licensed medication experts, pharmacists have the training and expertise to identify patients at risk for chemical dependence and addiction. However, a pharmacist who accesses the PDMP for a patient who has been prescribed a controlled substance without authorization under these laws may face criminal, civil, and administrative liability that could affect his ability to maintain a license and practice pharmacy.

This Comment first explains the unique standard of care that a Pennsylvania pharmacist owes to his or her patients and the interprofessional relationship between prescribers and pharmacists. This Comment then will argue that pharmacists, as essential health care providers, require PDMP access to improve patient outcomes, especially in the emergency room setting.



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