Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Reduces Opioid Prescriptions, Physician Shopping

Pennsylvania reduced physician shopping for controlled substances by 86% in 1 year through a prescription drug monitoring program.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf recently announced the success of the state’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). Since it was implemented only 1 year ago, more than 93,000 users have registered and helped reduce the number of patients participating in physician shopping for controlled substances, according to a press release.

“In its first year, we have seen an incredible 86% drop in patients ‘doctor-shopping’ because of professionals using the PDMP,” Wolf said in the release.

Physician shopping is when a patient visits 5 or more prescribers to obtain Schedule II-IV drugs—including opioids and benzodiazepines—over a short period of time.

Pennsylvania’s PDMP gathers prescription data for Schedule II-V substances, which is only accessible by healthcare professionals and those authorized by the law, according to the release. The PDMP also helps prescribers refer patients misusing drugs to appropriate treatment.

Over the past year, Wolf reports that the program has averaged 1.1 million searches per month, with 53,000 weekday searches, according to the release.

“The PDMP has proven to be an effective tool for stopping the disease of addiction before it starts,” said Rachel Levine, MD, acting health secretary and physician general at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. “Ensuring that medication is prescribed safely and effectively saves lives.”

Notably, the PDMP allows prescribers to determine if patients have filled prescriptions across state lines in Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, DC. Maryland has also been authorized to search Pennsylvania’s PDMP.

In September, Wolf said that the PDMP will also integrate electronic health records and pharmacy management systems of eligible healthcare systems in the state, which is expected to provide seamless care and allow for easy access of prescription information, according to the release.

In an effort to combat the opioid epidemic, the state also created 45 treatment centers and expended Medicaid to improve access to treatment. The state also received a $2.65 million grant for prevention, treatment, and recovery services to fight the epidemic.

“It has played a key role in increasing communication to not only reduce the number of unnecessarily prescribed opioids and benzodiazepines, but also getting patients with substance abuse disorders the help they need,” Wolf said. “In September, the PDMP will become even stronger with the launch of a new initiative that connects it to patients’ electronic health records, providing near-instant access to critical prescription history.”