Before writing a prescription, doctors should be fully informed about their patient’s prescribing history and current medications. That’s just common sense. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen more than 75% of the time.
When used correctly and regularly, Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) are an effective tool to prevent opioid addiction and accidental overdoses. These systems allow doctors to check their patient’s prescribing history before writing a prescription for a powerful drug that carries overdose risk, like an opioid, or for a potentially dangerous combination of medications, like an opioid co-prescribed with a benzodiazepine. And crucially, if a PDMP check reveals that a patient may be struggling with a substance use disorder, that should result in a referral to treatment—not a termination of care.
There’s good evidence that PDMPs work in states. Take New York, for example. In the first year that the state mandated the use of PDMPs in 2013, doctor shopping decreased by 75%, the number of opioid doses dispensed decreased by 10%, and the number of prescriptions for buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, increased by 15%.
We could see results like this in every state if key PDMP requirements are put in place at a federal level. This federal oversight would make all the difference—instead of being just another database, every state’s PDMPs could become a truly effective, lifesaving tool.
Shatterproof strongly recommends that states do not receive any PDMP funding after August 1, 2019, unless and until the following PDMP standards have been met:
- Require that every prescriber check the PDMP for schedule II, III and IV substances at the first prescribing event, and at least every 90 days thereafter
- Require pharmacists to enter dispensing information into the PDMP within 24 hours
- Require states to include the most recent 12 months of prescription history (at a minimum) in the PDMP
- Allow Medicare, Medicaid, health plans and pharmacy benefit managers to request access to state PDMP information
These best practices have all been recommended in numerous white papers, and leaving them out of a robust opioid legislative package would be a lost opportunity to save countless American lives.