While many Americans benefit from pain medications, abuse of prescription opioids is a serious problem, causing nearly 7,000 emergency room visits and more than 40 deaths every day. Nearly 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on opioids in 2014. And the problem is growing—the amount of prescription opioids dispensed has almost quadrupled since 1999, and more Americans died from drug overdoses in 2014 than ever before.
State strategies to prevent or curb opioid abuse include implementing and strengthening prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs)—state electronic databases that track prescriptions of controlled substances, including opioids. Studies suggest that PDMPs improve patient safety and reduce the risk of overdose by identifying patients at risk of abuse, reducing inappropriate prescribing and preventing patient "doctor shopping" (the practice of obtaining prescriptions from multiple providers).
Forty-nine states, the District of Columbia and Guam currently operate PDMPs, but vary in how quickly dispensers must submit data to the PDMP—within 24 hours, one week or one month. Timely data submission ensures that the PDMP accurately reflects a patient's current opioid prescriptions.
At least 26 states and Guam require prescribers to check the PDMP before writing opioid prescriptions, sometimes called mandated or universal use. The criteria for checking the PDMP varies, with some states requiring prescribers to check it before writing the majority of opioid prescriptions. Others mandate checking the PDMP only for certain providers or under certain circumstances, such as when a provider has a reasonable belief of inappropriate use or if the prescription is for chronic pain. At least 15 states also require prescribers to recheck the PDMP within a certain time period, such as within three months, 180 days or one year of writing the initial prescription.
Resources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prevention Status Reports: National Summary. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2016. Accessed [March 1, 2016]; National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws, 2015 Annual Review of Prescription Monitoring Programs; PDMP Training and Technical Assistance Center, Criteria for Mandatory Enrollment or Query of PDMP.