The Tennessee Department of Health acknowledges it has work to do in identifying doctors and nurse practitioners who are overprescribing opioids.
A state comptroller’s report released last week identified 62 prescribers who were far outside the average. The Health Department hadn’t opened an inquiry into half of them.
“We’ve primarily been complaint-driven,” assistant commissioner Alexa Witcher told state lawmakers on Monday.
She said the department intends to become more proactive, particularly in linking overdose deaths to specific physicians.
“One of the tools that we’ve been given and that we’re developing is the high-risk prescribers list,” she said, “and the overdose of patients of a particular prescriber is one of the factors that we look at.”
Health department officials say they are somewhat limited in how they can discipline a licensed medical professional, but plan to be more “attentive, starting with the 62 flagged by the comptroller.”
Members of the House Health Committee praised the department for helping to cut the total number of opioid prescriptions in the state by half since 2012, but several suggested the state should take more drastic action.
“It’s legalized drug trafficking,” said Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station. “And I would think we could rein that in more than we have.”