Wisconsin official: Prescription drug-tracking program has helped nearly eliminate ‘doctor shopping’

The state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is run by the Department of Safety and Professional Services

A pharmacist holds a bottle of pills as she stands in front of computers.
Pharmacist Betty Johnson is shown in 2010 at the Lund’s pharmacy she manages in Edina, Minn. In Wisconsin, a state agency leader says a prescription drug tracking program has nearly eliminated the practice known as “doctor shopping.” (Jim Mone/AP Photo)

A statewide program that tracks prescriptions for opioids and other addictive drugs is also helping to eliminate the practice of “doctor shopping,” according to an official who oversees the program.

Thanks to the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, “doctor shopping” is no longer common in Wisconsin, said Dan Hereth, secretary-designee of the state Department of Safety and Professional Services. “Doctor shopping” refers to the practice of seeking the same prescriptions from multiple doctors for illegal use.

“That’s very difficult to do now here in Wisconsin,” Hereth said recently on WPR’s “The Morning Show.”

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Pharmacies, health care professionals, police agencies and public health workers can access information about monitored prescription drugs through the program. Prescribers using the tool can make better informed decisions about prescribing controlled substances or those with potential for abuse to their patients.

“We continue to augment the system by providing physicians and others with even more robust data and visualizations around prescribing practices,” Hereth said.

While the state has reduced over-prescribing of opioid painkillers, Hereth said people with substance abuse disorders might instead seek out street drugs, such as heroin.

From a broader view, fatal overdoses remain a problem in the state. About 1,800 people died in Wisconsin from drug overdoses in the most recent 12 months of available reports, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

doctor with stethoscope
Thomas Kienzle/AP Photo

Licenses issued more quickly, but more workers needed

Also during his appearance on “The Morning Show,” Hereth praised the Department of Safety and Professional Services for issuing more than 60,000 credentials last year across industries, from nursing to social work to real estate. 

READ MORE: Wisconsin is getting speedier when it comes to granting professional licenses, audit finds

“We’ve issued more licenses more quickly than at any point in the history of the agency,” he said. “One of the things that I’m particularly proud about is if you look at the 2023 fiscal year data, the improvement in our licensing resulted in $54 million in additional wages for Wisconsinites.”

To keep processing more licenses, Hereth said he asked for a record number of workers in his latest state budget request. But he said the agency ended up getting 13 temporary workers. 

“Staffing government services off of temporary workers is not sustainable,” he said.