Mandatory PDMP participation helped 3 states drive down opioid prescriptions

Hydrocodone opioid pills
Counties in Ohio and Kentucky saw large decreases in opioid prescriptions after PDMP mandates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling on more states to consider policy changes to their prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) after data from three states that required clinician participation revealed significant decreases in opioid prescriptions.

Between 2010 and 2015, half of U.S. counties saw opioid prescribing reductions, according to data released by the CDC. But two states—Ohio and Kentucky—that tightened regulations for pain clinics and required physicians to review PDMPs saw a large percentage of counties decrease opioid prescribing. Ohio, which required prescribers to check the state’s PDMP in 2011, saw a decline in 85% of counties between 2010 and 2015. Kentucky passed a similar mandate in 2012 and 62% of state counties saw lower prescribing rates over the 6-year period.

Meanwhile, Florida began requiring weekly PDMP reporting in 2012 and saw a per capita decrease in opioid prescriptions in 80% of counties.

RELATED: CDC reports prescriptions for opioids have tripled since 1999

The CDC urged providers to use state-based PDMPs and called on states to consider requiring PDMP use to curb opioid-related overdose deaths. Virtual therapy sessions could also help reduce unnecessary prescribing. 

“Changes in opioid prescribing can save lives,” the agency wrote. “The findings of this report demonstrate that substantial changes are possible and that more are needed.”

Although many counties saw declines in opioid prescriptions, the report noted that the overall number of painkiller prescriptions was three times higher in 2015 compared with 1999. In 2015, physicians prescribed enough opioids to medicate every American around the clock for three weeks, according to the agency, adding to data that show nearly 25% of Medicaid patients were prescribed opioids in 2015.  

Not everyone sees PDMP mandates as a cure-all. Instead, states like Michigan are working to integrate PDMPs into hospital EHRs to make databases easier for physicians to access, an issue that many see as central to the effectiveness of such programs.