Take action with drug database data to curb doctor shopping

Though 49 states have authorized prescription drug-monitoring programs (PMPDs), many fail to take action with the data, according to a new report.

The study from Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management found a patchwork of strategies and standards--and that many states do not fully analyze the data they collect.

"Being proactive is the key to success in the fight against prescription painkiller abuse. While doctors may routinely collect and report data to a state program that signals where and when prescription painkillers are likely being misused, the program might not share that information with others who can best use it," said John L. Eadie, director of the school's PDMP Center of Excellence in an announcement from the Pew Charitable Trusts,  the research sponsor.

It's another example of why simply collecting data is not enough--you have to use the data effectively, as FierceHealthIT recently pointed out.

The paper focuses on effective strategies. It found that states that collect prescribing data for all controlled substances, such as anti-anxiety medication as well as painkillers, report lower levels of doctor-shopping for prescriptions, as did those that send alerts about possible abuse to physicians and pharmacists. Analyzing trend data helps law enforcement agencies identify "pill mills" that illicitly distribute prescription painkillers.

British Columbia recently reported success with a central, real-time database called PharmaNet linking all pharmacies and hospitals in the province. Comparing data from six months before it was installed and six months after, inappropriate prescriptions for opioids fell by 32.8 percent, and benzodiazepines decreased by 48.6 percent for those on social assistance.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has called upon states using drug-monitoring programs to improve their effectiveness. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT recently launched pilots in Indiana and Ohio to determine how to boost providers' access to data.

Earlier this summer, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill creating a real-time prescription database called I-STOP. The bill requires doctors in the state to issue electronic prescriptions for painkillers within three years and to check patient records online before doing so.

To learn more:
Here's the Brandais report
Read the Pew announcement


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