How effective are prescription drug monitoring programs at lowering opioid-related deaths?

Every state except Missouri has implemented a prescription drug monitoring program with the intent of reducing opioid-related deaths by more closely tracking opioid prescriptions to cut down on abuse and overuse of these drugs. A new Health Affairs study sought to determine just how effective PDMPs are in achieving that goal.

PDMPs collect data from pharmacies on controlled substance prescriptions, and providers who are prescribing controlled substances can access this data and identify potentially high-risk behaviors and patients at risk of opioid abuse.

To analyze the effectiveness of such programs, researchers looked at data from the 35 states that implemented PDMPs between 1999 and 2013.

For 34 of the states, the average opioid-related overdose death rate rose from 1.4 per 100,000 population in 1999 to 6.2 per 100,000 population in 2013. By the end of the study period, the states that implemented PDMPs had a lower opioid-related overdose death rate compared to states that did not implement such a program, at 6.19 per 100,000 population and 6.5 per 100,000 population, respectively.

Researchers noted programs that monitored at least four drug schedules and updated their data weekly were associated with bigger reductions in opioid-related overdose deaths than programs that did not include these characteristics.

Overall, researchers found implementation of PDMPs was associated with an average reduction of 1.12 opioid-related overdose deaths per 100,000 population in the year after implementation. They note that if Missouri were to implement such a program and more states included more robust features like tracking more drug schedules, there would be more than 600 fewer overdose deaths nationwide in 2016, preventing approximately two deaths per day.

More articles on opioids:

10M US adults report nonmedical use of opioids 
W.Va. to measure, rank physicians on opioid prescribing 
High costs pose barriers to opioid alternatives 

 

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