Study: PDMPs prevent an opioid death every two hours

State prescription drug monitoring programs nationwide prevent about one opioid death every two hours, according to research published in Health Affairs.

Researchers studied mortality rates and prescription drug monitoring programs for the 32 states that had data available from 1999 to 2013. More than 165,000 deaths related to prescription opioids were reported during that time period.

"This work is important not only because it demonstrates that prescription drug monitoring programs can save lives, but also because it shows that there are specific actions that states can take to strengthen their programs," Melinda Buntin, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University and senior author of the study, says in an announcement.

Researchers found states that monitored four or more drug schedules and updated their databases at least once a week had fewer opioid-related overdose deaths than states that did not.

The opioid-related overdose death rate in Missouri, the only state now without a drug database program, grew faster than the national average, the authors note.

Few doctors use the drug databases in some areas, which has prompted some states to mandate that providers register and use the database when prescribing. This study failed to find significant effects from that, but urged more research as those programs are in effect longer.

The authors also urged more federal support, since many of the programs lack a stable source of funding, and a comprehensive approach that involves more education for providers and the public and support for law enforcement officials.

A previous study in Health Affairs linked implementation of a drug-monitoring programs with a more than a 30 percent reduction in prescribing of Schedule II opioids.

To learn more:
- here's the research
- read the announcement
- check out the previous research abstract