Needles from heroin-users are collected in bins at the Harm Reduction Action Center in Denver. (Marvin Anani, Special to The Colorado Sun)

A Colorado program that allows doctors, dentists, pharmacists and others to check a database before issuing prescriptions for certain drugs hasn’t stopped so-called “doctor shopping” for opioids and sedatives and requires legislation to compel prescribers to register with the database and to use it.

That’s according to the Office of the State Auditor, which examined Colorado’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program within the Department of Regulatory Agencies. It presented an audit to the Legislative Audit Committee on Monday.

Created in 2008, the monitoring program is designed to collect data on certain prescriptions by pharmacies to stop patients from obtaining large amounts of opioids and dangerous combinations of prescription drugs.

Colorado Politics reports that, according to the audit, overdose deaths from prescription opioids have risen from 246 in 2008 to 433 in 2019. They are the most frequent type of overdose deaths in Colorado.

A 2014 state law requires pharmacists to submit information on dispensed controlled substances to the database. But the audit found there are no penalties for failing to do so.

It recommended legally requiring prescribers to check the database before issuing opioid or benzodiazepine prescriptions; add penalties to compel pharmacists and doctors to register with the database and use it; enforce limits on opioid prescriptions; and add referrals to law enforcement or healthcare regulatory boards for those who don’t comply.