Study: Prescription-Drug Monitoring Cuts Doctor-Shopping for Painkillers

State-run databases track prescribing of controlled substances

In a new study, state programs that require physicians to check drug registries before writing prescriptions appeared to reduce the odds of doctor-shopping for opioid pain relievers, according to a Reuters report.

Dr. Ryan Mutter, a health economist at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Rockville, Maryland, and his colleagues analyzed annual nationwide surveys of drug use and health from 2004 to 2014, when 36 states implemented prescription-drug monitoring programs (PDMPs).

PDMPs are state-run electronic databases designed to track prescribing of controlled substances and to identify people at high risk of using opioids for nonmedical purposes. Every state except Missouri now has a PDMP. Some states have mandatory programs requiring physicians to participate, and other states have voluntary programs.

The new study, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, found that in states where physicians were required to check an electronic database before writing an opioid prescription, the odds that two or more doctors would be giving pain relievers for nonmedical purposes to a single patient were reduced by 80%. States that implemented voluntary monitoring programs showed a 56% reduction in the odds of doctor-shopping.

States with mandatory prescription-drug monitoring programs reduced the use of painkillers for nonmedical purposes by an average of 20 days a year, the study found. States with voluntary prescription-drug monitoring program reduced the use of painkillers for nonmedical purposes by an average of 10 days a year.

The number of PDMPs has expanded rapidly across states since 2000, but previous studies showed mixed results about their effectiveness, the new study’s authors write.

One previous investigation found that drug-monitoring programs help prevent 10 opioid-overdose deaths a day in the U.S. States with the most-robust program—ones that tracked a greater number of potentially addictive medications and updated their databases at least weekly—saw the biggest drops in overdose deaths, that study showed.

Source: Reuters; February 17, 2017.