Walmart pharmacies becomes first to integrate data with drug-monitoring effort

The electronic records of more than 30 Walmart pharmacies and one Sam's Club pharmacy in Connecticut now are integrated with the state's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, allowing all information about prescriptions of drugs such as opioid painkillers to be easily shared between prescribers and pharmacists.

As part of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, created in 2008 to track opioid prescribing, pharmacists must report to the system within 24 hours of filling a prescription for Oxycontin, Percocet or another opioid. State law also requires doctors to review a patient's record in the system whenever they prescribe more than three days' worth of opioids.

The program ramped up in recent years in response to the worsening crisis of abuse and addiction to prescription opioids and their illegal cousins, heroin and fentanyl.

New laws passed by the legislature have expanded the scope of the program in an attempt to bring down overprescribing of opioids.

Data collected through the program have shown opioid prescriptions dropping between 2015 and 2017 from just over 2.6 million to almost 2.2 million.

Officials with the Department of Consumer Protection, which oversees the program, said the integration of Walmart pharmacies' records with the state data collection system would allow pharmacists to access patients' prescription records more efficiently.

Walmart also announced in May that it would start restricting first-time acute opioid prescriptions to no more than seven days' worth of medicine.

The company, which runs 33 Walmart pharmacies and one Sam's Club pharmacy in Connecticut, is the first pharmacy operator to integrate its records with the program but a Department of Consumer Protection spokeswoman, Lora Rae Anderson, said officials expect more companies to integrate soon.

"We all know the most important time in a health care professional’s day is spent with patients," Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull said in a statement. "This type of integration gives health care professionals access to the information they need more quickly, so they can spend more time meeting patient needs."

Two hospitals — Yale New Haven and Connecticut Children's Medical Center — already have integrated their medical records with the drug-monitoring program. The program's data also is connected to systems from 30 other U.S. states and Washington, D.C., Anderson said.

m.shanahan@theday.com

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