In the past few years, misuse of addictive medications has become a major problem throughout the U.S. Much of the focus currently falls on a group of drugs called prescription opioids. This makes sense since prescription opioid-related deaths are now more common in America than motor vehicle-related fatalities.

Fortunately, state governments across the country have a useful tool for combating medication dangers: the prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). These programs make it possible for doctors to track the ways they prescribe addictive medications. Just as importantly, PDMPs make it possible for users of these drugs to follow any hazardous patterns of medication consumption.

PDMPs Defined

At their core, PDMPs are online databases that monitor how addictive medications are prescribed and distributed. This tracking effort includes prescription drugs paid for by insurance companies and personal credit cards. It also includes drugs paid for in cash. But PDMPs don’t just look at overall patterns of medication use. They specifically look for patterns that may promote involvement in substance misuse/abuse. Also, they look for patterns of illegal substance distribution.

Who Administers the Programs?

All prescription drug monitoring programs operate at the state level. Today, 49 of the 50 U.S. states have such a program. (The sole exception is Missouri). PDMPs are also in use in the federal District of Columbia and the U.S. territory of Guam. The government offices responsible for running the programs vary from state to state. Examples of responsible agencies include:

  • Pharmacy boards
  • Health departments
  • Professional licensing agencies
  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Consumer protection agencies
  • Substances abuse panels or agencies

Which Medications Are Tracked?

The vast majority of PDMPs track the prescription and distribution of medications classified as opioids. This large category includes substances such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, morphine, and codeine. In addition, most of the nation’s programs also track all prescription medications classified as stimulants, tranquilizers/sedative-hypnotics or anabolic steroids. In some states, PDMPs include additional medications in their monitoring efforts. All substances tracked by prescription drug monitoring programs have one trait in common. Namely, their use can trigger problems with physical dependence, psychological dependence and/or addiction.

What Information Do PDMPs Provide?

The data gathered by prescription drug monitoring programs covers several areas of major concern. Specific topics include:

  • How often addictive medications are prescribed overall
  • The frequency that individual doctors write prescriptions for these medications
  • The number of addictive medications distributed by individual pharmacies
  • How many people receive prescriptions for drugs that can be dangerous when used in combination
  • People that may be affected by dependence/addiction
  • How many addicted/dependent people seek or receive their prescriptions from multiple doctors or pharmacies
  • The county, city, and zip code of people who get their prescriptions from multiple doctors or pharmacies
  • The county, city, and zip code of people who have overlapping prescriptions for drugs that are dangerous when used together

Together, the information collected by each PDMP provides a comprehensive snapshot of statewide concerns. In turn, the collected concerns of individual states provide a complete picture of any nationwide problems.

Who Is Eligible to Access PDMP Data?

Not just anybody can gain access to the data gathered by prescription drug monitoring programs. In fact, each state has its own rules about who can use this data. All PDMPs grant access to two key groups: the doctors who prescribe medications and the pharmacies that distribute them. All but two states also make PDMP data available to law enforcement organizations. Also, all but five states make the information available to licensing boards for doctors and pharmacists.

Forty-four of the 50 U.S. states give researchers access to the data gathered by prescription drug monitoring programs. Also, three-quarters of all states grant this right to people with prescriptions to addictive medications. A slightly smaller number of states provide PDMP information to coroners and medical examiners. Other groups with access in at least some states include drug courts and providers of drug abuse treatment.

How Do PDMPs Enhance Safety?

The information gathered by PDMPs can enhance medication safety in many crucial ways. First, it allows prescribers, distributors and other groups to identify dangerous local, statewide and nationwide trends. As a result, the identification of these trends makes it possible to mobilize effective prevention efforts. By issuing regular reports, state PDMPs can encourage doctors and pharmacies to change any behaviors that increase patient risk. Then, prescription drug monitoring programs can also track improvements in prescription and distribution patterns. Finally, PDMPs can identify any emerging threats posed by any current or new medications on the market.

Want to know more about the many benefits provided by America’s prescription drug monitoring programs? Just contact the experts at HMBD Insurance Services. HMBD’s staff of trained professionals can explain the intricacies of PDMPs in general. They can also help you understand the rules in effect in your state.