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PDMPs – what they are and why you should care.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs are state-based databases containing patient, prescriber, and pharmacy-specific information on controlled substances.

49 states have PDMPs; the lone holdout is Missouri, due to a whack job legislator who’s totally unfounded worries about privacy are preventing the Show Me State from showing dangerous prescribing and dispensing.

There is little consistency among and between the states.  Some require docs and pharmacies to access the PDMP before prescribing/dispensing drugs while most do not.  Some have data on all controlled substances, others do not. Some are relatively easy to use, many are not.

As a result, while 72% of docs know about their state’s PDMP, only half regularly access it.

Fortunately, at long last the AMA has gotten behind PDMPs, and is promoting best practices (after it determines for itself what those best practices are).

The AMA’s committee members would be well served to immediately and extensively collaborate with Brandeis University’s PDMP Center for Excellence. The CoE is the nation’s leading authority on PDMPs, and recently recommended payers have access to prescribing and dispensing databases.

For those looking for information on practical experience with PDMPs, a session at the most recent Rx Drug Abuse Summit provided a solid overview of current limits and best practices.  These include:

  • PDMPs should include data on all controlled substances
  • prescribers and dispensers of controlled substances should check the PDMP before prescribing or dispensing these drugs.
  • PDMPs should push information to prescribers/dispensers when there is solid evidence of high-risk behavior
  • payers and PBMs should be able to access PDMPs as they are responsible for authorizing and processing scripts.
  • PDMPs should be “interoperable”; that is, they should share data across state lines.

The reason we need PDMPs is blindingly obvious – abuse is rampant and deadly.  Extensive research shows effective PDMPs are implemented, opioid abuse – and use – declines, and the adverse impact of opioids does too.

After hundreds of thousands of deaths from opioids; billions and billions of dollars wasted on drugs that, in many cases, do far more harm than good; and the unspeakable tragedy inflicted on families and society, we now know that opioid manufacturers’ insatiable drive for profits led some companies to outright lie about the consequences and costs.

Here’s a brief but chilling film using Purdue Pharma’s own video to damn the company.  

Later this week, I’ll report on how PDMPs can be made much easier to use, cheaper to implement, and far more effective.

What doe this mean for you?

If anyone asks if payers should have access to PDMP data, the answer is yes.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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