Tecumseh Coalition for Youth endorses use of MAPS to cut down on prescription drug abuse

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Pharmacist Harvey Schmidt is pictured using MAPS at Schmidt and Sons Pharmacy. Photo by Mary Kay McPartlin.

The Tecumseh Coalition for Youth continues to support families in the battle against drug abuse in local youth. Its recent focus is on utilization of a state program that helps track prescriptions of controlled substances. The Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS) was started by the state of Michigan to comply with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) requirements to monitor prescriptions of controlled substances.

According to the MAPS website, “Prescription monitoring programs are used to identify and prevent drug diversion at the prescriber, pharmacy and patient levels by collecting Schedule 2-5 controlled substances prescriptions dispensed by pharmacies and practitioners.”

According to April Demers, Community Development Coordinator for Tecumseh Coalition for Youth, the program helps to eliminate the abuse of prescription medication through accountability. Harvey Schmidt, local pharmacist, said the reports are automatically generated into a database when prescriptions are filled. These reports are submitted on a weekly basis right now, but eventually there will be daily submissions.

“There’s a lot of accountability there,” said Demers. Prescriptions can be tracked with information about a specific patient, the doctor writing the prescription or by the pharmacy filling the prescription.

Currently, physicians are not required to check with MAPS when they prescribe a controlled substance like Oxycontin, morphine-based drugs, or opiates. “We’re concerned with medications known to be abused,” Demers said.

She believes physicians are not using the system because when it first went online about five years ago there were quite a few bugs causing problems. Schmidt remembers that in the beginning it would take days to pull up information. Pharmacists could not immediately contact the prescribing physician before a prescription was filled if suspicious activity was suspected.

One of the goals of the TCY is to encourage physicians, doctor’s offices, and hospitals to use MAPS regularly, following protocol for the system. Demers hopes to offer a physician and healthcare providers a luncheon training session with Mike Wissel from the State of Michigan so he can explain the MAPS procedure. After the training there will be one or two local people who can assist with MAPS registration.

“The goal is to have 100% of local physicians and pharmacists using MAPS because it will make a huge impact on prevention of prescription drug abuse.”
Once the physicians and medical personnel are educated and using MAPS, the offices along with local pharmacies can post signs stating the facility regularly uses MAPS. “It’s a deterrent,” Demers said about the signage and the effect it has on pill shoppers.

For those concerned about privacy with regard to prescriptions, Demers reiterated the program is already in place and reports are generated automatically. The only information in MAPS, however, is prescriptions of controlled substances. No other medical information is included in the database. MAPS is part of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and the information available for controlled substance prescriptions includes physician name, patient name, dosage and the pharmacist filling the prescription.

“It’s not even a choice,” said Demers. “It’s there whether or not someone wants it to be posted. The only people who have access to MAPS are physicians, pharmacists and law enforcement.”

Schmidt agreed the information contained in MAPS is very specific, and not easily accessed. In fact, he was not sure if law enforcement were even allowed access to MAPS. He said from the pharmacy perspective, privacy is very important and certain guidelines must be followed.

If a patient comes in to fill a prescription and there are indicators of suspicious behavior, the pharmacy will run a MAPS report. If the report comes back showing several prescriptions for controlled substances filled recently, the pharmacist will contact the prescribing doctor but does not give the report information directly to the physician.

“We suggest they should do a MAPS report,” Schmidt said.

After the doctor runs the MAPS report the prescription is usually cancelled and the pharmacist is instructed to have the patient contact the doctor’s office directly. Even with the concern for privacy, it is required by the DEA that follow-up must happen with anyone suspected of abusing the system.

Much serious illegal drug activity begins with prescribed medications. Demers said people may legitimately need prescriptions for pain management or other health reasons, but then fall into addiction. Eventually prescription drug abuse can change to abuse of illegal drugs. “There’s a huge connection between opiates and heroin addiction,” said Demers.

Sometimes the abuser is not the patient. Family members, especially teens, get access to current or past prescribed medications for parents or grandparents. Demers said outreach to grandparents is also planned by TCY to provide ways for accountability for medications, keeping them safe and out of the wrong hands.
Schmidt is a member of the Michigan Board of Pharmacy and reviews licensure. He said there is a “huge increase” in pharmacies filling prescriptions that are not legitimate. Eventually these pharmacies come to the attention of the Board of Pharmacy, and if found guilty will lose licensure to fill prescriptions.

Schmidt and Sons Pharmacy has not had a serious problem with customers trying to doctor shop or pill shop, according to Schmidt. The staff is able to identify the specific behaviors found in those with drug problems.

“We have a pretty stable clientele,” Schmidt said. He said the medical community in Tecumseh is also secure and there have not been any instances of local doctors prescribing unnecessary prescriptions.

More information on the MAPS Program, Tecumseh Coalition for Youth, including meeting times is available from Demers at 734-637-6485.




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