Mandating Use of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)

In 2011, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared an opioid epidemic in the United States. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives to drugs.

Because people continue to take prescription drugs at an alarming rate, many states now require physicians to use prescription drug monitoring programs, or PDMPs.

PDMPs help prevent patients from abusing or becoming addicted to prescription drugs by ensuring that physicians are not overprescribing. The use of PDMPs was not common in the past. But today, these programs are mandatory in 39 states, and usage rates have increased by over 90% in participating states.

PDMPs aren’t only useful in preventing overprescribing. Physicians utilize PDMPs for many additional reasons, including the following:

  • Adding information to a patient’s medical record, such as history of hospitalization, overdose, etc.
  • Making data available between states so a patient can’t go from one doctor to the next to get prescription drugs (also known as “doctor shopping”)
  • Comparing prescribing rates with other physicians in the state, as well as against CDC guidelines
  • Providing patient data through electronic medical records so a designated physician can treat the patient if he or she is not available
  • Sending alerts to law enforcement and necessary medical professionals when a patient is misusing prescription drugs
  • Offering reports to toxicologists that include a history of medications should a patient experience a fatal overdose

While PDMPs are not yet mandatory or available in all states, the CDC, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) are offering grants to help states get access to these features.

PDMPs provide many benefits at a time when prescription drug abuse is happening all over the country. And while there are many benefits to PDMPs, some states don’t believe these programs should be mandatory. The fear is that making physicians use PDMPs will take away from those patients who have actual pain conditions. Risking patient privacy is also a big concern. These are understandable concerns, but they are not powerful enough to stop the majority of physicians from using these programs.

Substance abuse and addiction is so common that countless people know someone who is addicted to drugs or who has overdosed on them. In 2016 alone, more than 63,000 people in the United States lost their lives because of drugs. Many of these drugs included prescription medications like Vicodin, OxyContin, and fentanyl. And while some of these drugs were not prescribed, others were. Today, initiatives like PDMPs are being put in place to help minimize the opioid problem so that addictions can be addressed and treated with appropriate, effective care. If someone needs additional help with an addiction, there are many alcohol & drug rehab centers across the United States.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash