Wisconsin officials are using a prescription drug database started five years ago to crack down on top prescribers of opioids.
Seven doctors, 16 dentists and four advance practice nurses are under investigation after the state identified them as heavy opioid prescribers and professional boards referred them for scrutiny.
The actions are outlined in a report last week by the Controlled Substances Board. The board runs the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which started in 2013.
Under the program, pharmacies and other drug dispensers must report controlled substances given to patients. As of last year, doctors and others are required to check the database before prescribing narcotics and other monitored drugs, in part to prevent patients from “doctor shopping” for drugs.
According to the new report, nearly 2.7 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed in Wisconsin during the first three quarters of this year, down from about 3.1 million during the same period last year and more than 3.7 million during the same period in 2015. That’s a 28 percent reduction over three years.
The state had a record 883 opioid overdose deaths last year, up from 827 in 2016.
The Controlled Substances Board can disclose prescribing data to licensing boards if “circumstances indicate suspicious or critically dangerous conduct,” the report said.
In August and September, the agency turned over data on top prescribers of opioids from Dec. 1 to May 31.
Among about 15,000 doctors in the state who prescribe opioids, seven were identified as potentially problematic. The top one had more than 1,200 opioid prescriptions a month, for a total of about 100,000 doses a month — nearly twice as many as the next top prescriber.
The Medical Examining Board referred the doctors to the investigation arm of the state Department of Safety and Professional Services.
The Dentistry Examining Board referred four top opioid prescribers, including one who had about 230 opioid prescriptions a month for a total of nearly 4,500 doses a month. The dental board also referred 12 dentists who wrote prescriptions lasting longer than three days but apparently hadn’t used the drug monitoring program.
The Board of Nursing referred four advanced practice nurse prescribers, including one who had more than 600 opioid prescriptions a month for a total of about 50,000 doses a month.
About 3,000 dentists and 3,700 advance practice nurses prescribe opioids in the state.