Accidental drug overdoses are huge problem in this country, and last year more than 1,000 people died from drug overdoses in Tennessee. A new Tennessee law seeks to reduce this problem by reducing prescription drug abuse and doctor shopping.

The Prescription Safety Act of 2012, which took effect January 1, 2013, requires pharmacists to enter prescription information for commonly abused drugs into a statewide electronic database every seven days — previously this was only required every 30 days. Also as of January 1, doctors who prescribe drugs need to be registered with the database. Another phase of the law takes effect on April 1, 2013, that requires doctors to check the database and monitor their patients’ activity at pharmacies before writing prescriptions for commonly abused drugs, such as Vicodin, Valium and Percocet.

The goal of the law is to reduce drug abuse, illegal reselling and doctor shopping by raising flags when a patient’s name pops up frequently in the database. People who use medications infrequently and who actually need them will not be affected by the new law.

If a doctor thinks that a patient is illegally reselling the drugs, he or she has a duty to report that patient to the authorities. Moreover, the law allows the State Department of Health to issue fines and revoke doctors and pharmacists licenses if they do not properly use the database and report abuses.

Many other states are also joining in the nationwide effort to reduce prescription pill abuse, and Tennessee is working with them to share patient information. This is designed to curb the growing problem of patients crossing state lines to obtain pills in other states where their name won’t show up in the database.

Doctors, pharmacists, persons addicted to prescription drugs, and persons charged with illegal prescription reselling all need to be aware of the provisions of the new law and make sure that they are in full compliance. A consultation with an attorney knowledgeable with the provisions of the Prescription Safety Act of 2012 can be extremely beneficial.