Do State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs Work?

Do State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs Work?According to the Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC), more than 20,000 Americans died of an overdose involving prescription opioid medications in 2015. The number of people dying from an opioid overdose in this country on a daily basis (91) is only climbing, and 49 states have taken action to combat this problem by instituting Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs).

PDMPs are electronic databases that are used to track the prescribing and distribution of prescription medications throughout the state. Pharmacists are responsible for entering patient information into the system before they dispense any type of narcotic medication. Healthcare professionals have access to this information and are encouraged to check the database before prescribing any painkillers to their patients.

The goal of these programs is to help pharmacy personnel and healthcare providers alike to identify who is most at risk for opioid abuse and dependence. The databases are designed to warn inquirers when prescription misuse has occurred and help prevent addiction.

Facts from the CDC about the Prescription Opioid Problem in America
  • 91 people in the U.S. die every day from an opioid overdose
  • Nearly 50% of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.
  • Deaths from opioids prescription painkiller medications like hydrocodone, oxycodone and methadone have quadrupled since 1999.
  • 33,091 Americans died from an opioid overdose in 2015
  • Nearly 2 million Americans suffered from prescription opioid abuse or dependence in 2014.
  • 1 in 4 people who have been using prescription opioid long-term struggle with addiction
  • 1,000 people in the U.S. are treated daily in emergency departments for misusing prescription opiates
  • Because women are more prone to suffer from chronic pain, they are also more susceptible to prescription opioid abuse and dependence
  • 48,000 women died of prescription painkiller overdoses between 1999 and 2010, according to the CDC.

Have Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs Been Successful?

PDMPs have shown to be effective in changing the way doctors prescribe medications, as well as in reducing the rates of doctor shopping – when patients visit multiple providers for the same prescription.

A recent study published by the journal Health Affairs revealed that states that implemented PDMPs saw a 30 percent decline in the number of prescriptions written for opiate pain relievers.

Positive Outcomes 

  • PDMPs have shown to be effective in reducing doctor shopping
  • They have changed the way in which provides prescribe medications, making doctors more aware and cautious.
  • Doctors can find out if any unauthorized dispensing has occurred under their name. The database makes it easier to track down the prescriber or patient.
It is possible that the implementation of a prescription drug monitoring program by itself substantially raised awareness among prescribers about controlled substance misuse and abuse and made them more cautious when prescribing pain medications with a great potential for abuse and dependency. It is also possible that knowing that their prescribing was being ‘watched’ deterred them from prescribing Schedule II opioids to some extent.Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York

The CDC has also provided examples of states that have experienced positive results from the implementation of PDMPs.

  • Florida: In 2012, the state experienced a more than 50% decease in overdose deaths involving oxycodone – the first significant decline in a decade
  • New York: In 2013, there was a 75% drop in doctor shopping after providers were required to check the database before prescribing the medications the previous year.
  • Tennessee: In 2013, the state experienced a 36% decline in doctor shopping after the same rules were implemented for providers in Tennessee.
  • Oregon: The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported the rate of death due to prescription opioid poising declined 38% between 2006 and 2013 in the state. Also, Oregon’s methadone poisoning deaths declined 58% in the same time period.

What are the Drawbacks of PDMPs?

Despite the positives, there are still some issues that must be address about PDMPs. Doctors and pharmacists have complained about the fact that the information in the database is not always easily accessible, making it a very time-consuming process.


  • Accessing the information takes a long time, which is detrimental to healthcare providers who have busy schedules and many patients.
  • Electronic health records are not available with all the integrated data, meaning that doctors need to access a different system altogether during patient visits.
  • The database isn’t completely reliable – so if a pharmacist does not enter the information, or enters it incorrectly, the information in the system may wither be wrong or missing.
  • Differences in the way a patient’s name is spelled can also affect the data. A misspelling can make it more difficult to find a patient in the system.
  • It takes several days for the data to show up in the system, so if the patient goes to another doctor the next day, they may be able to obtain another prescription without being detected.

What can be done to solve these issues?

Many states are looking in to ways to solve these problems, including:

  • Unsolicited reporting: This would trigger and alter that is sent to physicians when patient could possibly be abusing medications.
  • Delegation: This allows other staff members in the doctors office, such as nurses, to have access to the PDMP database on the provider’s behalf.
  • Integrating PDMP data with electronic health records: This will allow the patient’s prescription history to be available to doctors during each visit.

PDMPs can play be an essential tool in the fight against opioid dependence. Unfortunately, this is only possible is these issues are resolved so clinicians can have timely and appropriate access to a patient’s prescription drug history. More must be done to make sure this database is comprehensive and easily accessible across every state.

Get Treatment for Prescription Opioid Addiction

We know that PDMPs have been successful in decreasing the number of painkiller prescriptions, but the real question is are they helping to curb the prescription opioid addiction epidemic? While no studies have been released providing a definitive answer, it is important to be aware of the dangers of prescription pain revilers and the potential for abuse and dependence.

If you suspect someone you love is abusing prescription painkillers, don’t hesitate to seek help. At Get Treatment, we can help you find an opiate addiction treatment center that meets your loved one’s needs for recovery. Let us help you find a drug rehab centers that provides individualized treatment programs that combine evidenced-based and holistic therapies. Give us a call at 855-638-9268 and get started on your recovery journey today.

Additional Sources:

Erica Loret de Mola

Erica Loret de Mola is a communications major who has been writing about addiction treatment for approximately three years. As content manager and editor in chief of Get Treatment, she strives to provide the most accurate and current information available to our clients.


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