Columbus -- Some 12,000 Ohio doctors are being warned they appear to be violating a 2015 law that requires them to check patients' prescription histories against a state website before recommending prescription painkillers.
An August audit of the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System by the state Pharmacy Board identified those doctors who either weren't registered on the site or weren't using it properly. The panel turned the list over last week to the state Medical Board, which has sent letters to all the doctors alerting them to potential violations.
The crackdown comes as Ohio faces a drug overdose epidemic that's been tied in part to the ease of access to prescription opioids.
Medical Board spokeswoman Tessie Pollock said the board's priority will be the 45 physicians who apparently prescribed painkillers to more than 200 patients during the month without running the required checks.
"That's going to be our first area of focus," Pollock said.
The Pharmacy Board review found the top 25 physicians on the list failed to run the required report on a combined 7,500 patients. That included one doctor who prescribed painkillers to 705 patients in one month without running a single check.
Pollock said serious violators could face license suspension or revocation, probation or fines.
However, she said many of the violations could turn out to be minor. So the board plans to couple the enforcement crackdown with an education program that helps doctors understand how to set up a site account, enter data and generate required reports.
The Ohio State Medical Association believes the figure of 12,000 is too high.
"We do not believe that 12,000 doctors are violating the law," said Reggie Fields, a spokesman for the association, which represents physicians. "We're certainly supportive of the Medical and Pharmacy boards taking these periodic looks and making sure people are in compliance, but it's really a checks-and-balances kind of thing. Certainly, we wouldn't think that many doctors are out of compliance."
Fields said the medical community recognizes the extent of the opiate addiction problem in the state and supports the law as a way to improve tracking of painkiller prescriptions and to identify patients who attempt to doctor shop to get more pills.
He said the association urges its members to respond to board letters and comply with the law.