Prescription drug monitoring programs, or PDMPs, are highly effective in helping government officials reduce prescription drug use and diversion. According to the PDMP Training and Technical Assistance Center, these programs “collect, monitor, and analyze electronically transmitted prescribing and dispensing data submitted by pharmacies and dispensing practitioners.” The program is accessed only by entities authorized by state law to access the program such as health care practitioners, pharmacists, regulatory boards and law enforcement agencies. The U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration has listed the following benefits the PDMPs offer:
- Support access to legitimate medical use of controlled substances
- Identify and deter to prevent drug use and diversion
- Facilitate and encourage the identification, intervention with and treatment of persons addicted to prescription drugs
- Inform public health initiative through outlining of use and abuse trends, and
- Educate individuals about PDMPs and the use, abuse, and diversion of and addiction to prescription drugs
How exactly does it work? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that the tool is used in real time, so when pharmacists dispense controlled substances to patients, they must enter the prescription in to the PDMP system. Pharmacies, however, submit this data to state PDMPs at varying times, which could range from monthly, to daily, to even “by the minute”. The system is not just used for recording data, however. The CDC further notes that PDMPs can send proactive reports to authorized users to protect patients who may be elevated risk or may have inappropriate prescribing trends.
It is unclear how many states are utilizing PDMPs; several sources indicate that all states except for Missouri have implemented the program, but other sources have noted that Missouri has recently announced the launching of a PDMP this year. With the opioid epidemic, PDMPs help pharmacists regulate “doctor shopping”, a common technique used by patients who want more of the same medication, so they reach out to several doctors to fulfill several prescriptions.
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