- Opioid-related overdose deaths declined 1.12 per 100,000 people in the year following implementation of state prescription-monitoring programs, according to a new report published in Health Affairs.
- States with programs that monitored broader numbers of abuse-associated drugs and those that updated their database at least weekly, so more dramatic results.
- If all 49 states with PMP programs followed robust practices and lone hold-out Missouri adopted a such program, 600 lives — or two a day — could be saved nationwide this year, the report says.
The number of painkillers prescribed in the U.S. has skyrocketed, totaling 259 million in 2012, according to researchers from Vanderbilt University and the Tennessee Department of Health. In 2014, 47,055 people succumbed to drug overdoses, 61% from opioids.
In Missouri, which doesn’t have a PMP, opioid-related overdose deaths outpaced the national average, the report says. The study focused on the 35 states that had PDMPs at the time of the analysis.
Since the study, more states are adopting robust programs. The authors note in 2015, 33 states monitored at least four drugs with abuse potential and 48 updated data at least weekly.
“Future research should evaluate additional innovations to prescription drug monitoring programs, such as interoperability between states’ programs and requiring prescribers to register with and use a program, and it should exploit natural experiments in program characteristics to understand the impact of innovations,” the authors wrote.
Two states, New York and Oklahoma, require real-time reporting when a prescription is filled. Oklahoma’s law also requires physicians to check the state’s PMP before prescribing a controlled substance for a patient the first time and to check every six months for three types of addictive drugs: opiates, anti-anxiety medications and the muscle relaxant carisoprodol.
However, experts point to limitations in some PDMPs. For instance, New York’s I-STOP (Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing) program is limited to in-state pharmacy data and doesn’t include data on prescriptions filled in neighboring states, where patients may go to “doctor shop” for multiple prescriptions of a painkiller.