The Veterans Administration Medical Center in Beckley is among those in the nation which failed to perform required opioid database checks for patients who were being prescribed opioids, a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Attorney General found in a report released in September.

The report found that in six VA facilities from April 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018, VA clinicians failed 73 percent of the time to enter a patient's name into an electronic database that tracks controlled substance prescriptions.

The goal of the program is to reduce prescription drug abuse and diversion, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

In Beckley, clinicians did not check the database in 53 percent of the cases, compared to 93 percent at a VA in Texas and 43 percent at a VA in Dayton, Ohio.

The audit estimated that about 19 percent of VA patients were placed at risk of having care coordination and management problems because clinicians did not run a query with a state database to discover if a veteran had obtained a controlled substance prescription from a non-VA pharmacy.

The report stated that the Veterans Health Administration lacks an "effective control system to monitor and evaluate" the performance of the drug monitoring program queries as part of the Opioid Safety Initiative, which the VA had launched in 2013 to help the VA manage pain in veterans while limiting the risks associated with opioids.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin expressed frustration with the report's findings and suggested that more stringent oversight is needed by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

"The VA is the first line of defense when it comes to protecting, preventing and treating our veterans who are struggling with opioid use disorder," Manchin said. "That’s why it’s an outrage that a VA facility in West Virginia was found by the VA’s OIG to have not consistently used the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program databases, which are there to save lives and are designed to make sure doctors do not overprescribe opioids to a patient.

"I have continuously asked the Secretary of the VA if this system was working and he repeatedly assured me that it’s effective," added Manchin. "The bottom line is that the VA has failed to fully train providers and enforce policies that Congress has created to prevent the spread of the opioid crisis.

"Apparently, as a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, we need to increase our oversight to ensure that the VA can do its job.”  

The VA OIG report showed that some local policies differed from national policy, contributing to a breakdown in the Opioid Safety Initiative. A second contributing factor was inadequate training and communication breakdowns.

In light of the study, the VA OIG recommended that VA clinicians increase their use of state prescription drug monitoring programs and that there should be increased oversight of VA health care facilities.

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