Tuesday, August 05, 2008

An interesting proposal, let's brainstorm a solution

How's this for a "forward":

Please allow me to introduce myself and the circumstances that have brought me to contacting you.

My name is Pamela Hewett, I am a 39 year old Illinois Police Officer and have served my communities for the past 14 years. My husband is also a (16 year Police) Officer. I come to you on a bended knee and humbly request your assistance in a matter of great importance to myself and my family..........

Recently tragedy struck when my sister (Gina M. Smith of Cross Junction VA) was over prescribed medications. It cost her a beautiful and promising life, and she was only 47 years old. She left behind two very young beautiful daughters, one of which had the misfortune of finding her mother laying deceased from the overdose of Oxycontin, Xanax, Percocet, and what ever else she was prescribed. I know you may shake your heads and believe there is nothing you can do to change the tragedy of what has happened, but I believe that is not true. Please read on:

Through my research I have found that the dangers of these drugs have been known since shortly after being created. The increase in abuse has nearly quadrupled since then, and yet nothing has been done to stop it. Prescription drug deaths’ is fast becoming the leading cause of death among Americans, and now I take that extremely personal because it took someone from us that was a vibrant and beautiful person. You see, this started for my sister when she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2002. You know what? She was cancer free when she died. She beat the cancer but not the drugs that should have been monitored and cut off long before 2008.

As a law enforcement officer, I do not understand why, if someone is wanted on warrants for escape, drug trafficking, or any other serious or heinous crime, police can enter a persons name into our computers and we SEE this information NATIONALLY. If someone is a registered sex offender, the same concept applies…. why can’t medical professionals have this same accommodation ?

I need your help - Some how, some way, we need to establish a NATIONAL DATABASE similar to what the police use, only it would be for the use of medical professionals. Please help me to stop the doctor shopping and countless unnecessary deaths which is on the rapid rise. Let’s help to save other families from this heartache and anger and grief. I know, when a law is put in place, criminals always find a way around it, but just think of the people who won’t be able to do that, and the lives that might be saved?

I am proposing that the database requirements be that when someone is requesting pain management, (resulting in the distribution of anything in the Schedule 1, Schedule 2, or any other prescriptions that may prove a risk for creating addiction) that BEFORE a Doctor distributes the medication, the national database would have to be checked. In order to obtain these kinds of medicines people would have to present not only a photo ID but their social security card as well. It's allot harder to forge or duplicate social security numbers than it is Names / ID cards. There are also more intricate controls that can be considered.

Police departments use AFIS (Automated fingerprint identification system) - which gives us NATIONAL information off of one fingerprint when someone is "in" the system. Why cant it be a requirement of identification that a thumbprint of a patient be tied to their identifiers once they begin using prescription pain management? There could be no forging a fingerprint. The medical professionals could help abruptly halt the doctor shopping that is killing our citizens. They will be able to enter the database with the patient information and see exact dates, locations, and medications obtained.

I believe that by establishing this sort of a control system, we can change the tide of rapidly increasing prescription deaths. Sitting back and conducting studies of how prescription drugs are so heavily abused and a leading cause of death in America is doing nothing to correct the problem.

Please join in and assist me to get this completed. If you can not or do not want to assist, then forward this to someone who can and will help this idea become reality. I want to reach as many people as possible to raise awareness & to get this job done.


Pamela L. Hewett
3504 Vine St
McHenry IL 60050


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good idea to me. What do you think, Dr. Keller?

Dr. Richard Keller said...

It would be very useful to track/be aware of "professional patients" and certain individuals who "doctor shop" to get more pain meds, and other meds, than they should. Communication, checking, between pharmacies through some database or other mechanism would, I think, be a great idea. It could save lives, allow for intervention before a death and, in at least some cases, impact criminal behavior as well (some doctor shoppers resell their meds, unlike the woman mentioned in the post above).

Empoprises said...

Officer Hewett,

Before proceeding with the idea of biometric verification of identity, there is one issue that needs to be addressed.

When the Illinois State Police uses biometric identification, they have access to trained forensic examiners who are not only able to examine and compare prints, but are also able (unless there's a successful Daubert challenge) to testify in court regarding the information found in their examinations.

Should biometrics be used for medical database purposes, you would want to ensure that forensic examiners are able to provide similar services.

No AFIS is 100% accurate, and you still need a human in the loop - possibly two or three humans, if secondary or supervisory verification is performed.

Dr. Richard Keller said...

I am sure that Officer Hewett is aware of those limitations.

It is my experience that those involved in these activities use their own ID, a consistent false identity, or "I'm picking it up for a relative/friend, etc".

Anonymous said...

thank you Dr. Keller for posting Officer Hewett's letter. Seems like the media should be all over this story/problem but maybe it's not "hard core" enough. I can't offer any ideas, just wanted to say keep up the good work (both of you). AND DON'T GIVE UP!