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Opioid Road Map: How the Government Plans to Battle the Opioid Epidemic by Utilizing PDMPs

Posted: February 8th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Basics, Controlled Substances, Public Policy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Road Map

The opioid crisis has taken our nation by storm, claiming an average of 78 victims a day, all of whom lost a vicious battle with opioid addiction. According to the National Governors Association, the current epidemic is being fueled by inappropriate opioid prescribing, as 4 out of 5 heroin users reported misusing prescription opioids before switching to heroin. Now, governors across the United States are taking action against the epidemic with a range of public health and safety strategies that address everything from prevention to treatment to recovery. In order to successfully attack the opioid crisis head on, they’ve decided to create an Opioid Road Map which will act as a tool to outline these strategies for states nationwide.

A Road Map Was Born

The Road Map was developed by the National Governors Association (NGA) to help states respond to the growing crisis of opioid abuse and overdose, as well as strengthen law enforcement efforts and abilities to address illegal activity. The individual state can either follow the road map step-by-step or they can pick and choose which pieces to utilize based on their needs.

The Opioid Road Map is a three-part process as outlined by the NGA:

Step 1 – Assess the Situation

Step 2 – Develop and Select Policies

Step 3 – Finalize Policies, Implement, and Evaluate Results

To develop the Road Map, the NGA worked with 13 states between 2012 and 2015 to create effective statewide programs to battle the opioid epidemic. Input was received from multiple stakeholders including pain specialists, law enforcement officials, health care payers, substance use disorder treatment professionals, and more. Numerous resources were shared in order to build this Road Map and having the ability to optimize and utilize the data collected from state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) was key to the Road Map’s creation.

The Role of PDMPs

The PDMPs of individual states is a database that contains controlled substance prescribing and dispensing data submitted by pharmacies and prescribers. This information is used to monitor and analyze all prescribing activity for use in abuse prevention, research and law enforcement. In regards to the Opioid Road Map specifically, the NGA is encouraging states to use their PDMPs as a tool for prescribers to gather real-time information on prescription opioids, and to analyze trends and outcomes associated with policies and programs.

According to the NGA, in order to maximize the use and effectiveness of state PDMPs, the following should be required:

  • Prescribers should be querying PDMPs before prescribing Schedule II, III, IV controlled substances
  • Pharmacists must report to the state’s PDMP within 24 hours of dispensing
  • PDMP data must be used to provide proactive analyses and reporting to professional licensing boards and law enforcement
  • PDMPs must be easy to use and PDMP data should be integrated into the Electronic Health Record (EHR)
  • PDMPs should be interoperable with other states

Since these Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs already exist within forty nine states, it would be beneficial to utilize this data not only for preventing occurrences such as “doctor shopping” (people seeking multiple pain prescriptions from multiple prescribers) and identifying at risk patients, but also for achieving goals put forth by the Road Map in relation to research, law enforcement, and policy reform.

Road Map Expectations

By utilizing the Road Map, states will find background information on the current issue of opioid abuse and which factors are involved with prescription opioid misuse and addiction. They will also have access to the different steps outlined which act as a how-to guide for assessing the situation, selecting policies, and evaluating initiatives. Another item of value they could get from using the road map is a summary of evidence-based health care and public safety strategies to reduce opioid abuse.

By utilizing the Road Map, states will be able to work together to not only brainstorm about how to prevent and respond to the opioid epidemic, but more importantly, they will be able to put a plan into action which will achieve those defined objectives, with the ultimate goal of saving more lives in the process.

Author: Shannon K.

Sources: National Governors Association; NGA Road Map Outline; GCN Magazine

About DoseSpot

DoseSpot is a Surescripts certified e-Prescribing platform specifically designed to integrate with electronic health record, electronic dental record, practice management and telehealth software. DoseSpot is certified to e-Prescribe controlled substances and has provided simple, affordable and integratable e-Prescribing solutions to healthcare IT companies since 2009. For more information, please visit www.DoseSpot.com.

5 Shortcomings You Need to Know About Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)

Posted: February 8th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Basics, Controlled Substances, Public Policy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

PDMP Technology Under Construction

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) are state-run electronic databases that are used to track the prescribing and dispensing of controlled prescription drugs with the intent of helping to detect suspected abuse or diversion. These electronic databases provide important information regarding a patient’s controlled substance history that can be accessed by authorized individuals or agencies including law enforcement, medical examiners, addiction treatment programs, public and private payers, pharmacies, healthcare providers, and more.

All states except Missouri, the District of Columbia, and Guam have enacted PDMP legislation that mandate healthcare providers to record, consult and monitor prescribing data. Since the widespread implementation of PDMPs and corresponding legislations, there have been stories and statistics that seem to indicate success, however, there has also been feedback that indicates some major troubles with these databases and their use.

With PDMPs being utilized all over the country, should we expect a major turn-around in the prescription opioid crisis that is sweeping the nation? Are these databases in fact doing the job that they are intended to do? Or, are there major issues that are preventing their success? Let’s explore together.

The Benefits of PDMPs

PDMPs are considered to be the most promising state-level interventions to improve opioid prescribing, inform clinical practice, and protect patients at risk. They are intended to not only medically benefit patient care, but also to serve as a tool for law enforcement and other agencies concerned with opioid-related threats to the public health. This is because the information entered in to a PDMP can help prescribers and pharmacists identify patients at high-risk who would benefit from early interventions.

Further evaluations of PDMPs have demonstrated changes in prescribing behaviors, the use of multiple providers by patients, and decreased substance abuse treatment admissions. From a public health standpoint, PDMPs can be used by state health departments to better understand the current opioid addiction epidemic to better create new intervention methods.

[Read: The Link Between PDMPs and e-Prescribing]

As an example, in 2010, Florida established a PDMP and prevented health care providers from dispensing prescription opioid pain relievers directly from their office. That same year, there was a 50% decrease in oxycodone overdose deaths in the state. This change is thought to represent the first documented, substantial decline in drug overdose mortality in any state during the previous ten years.

Likewise, in 2012, prescribers in New York and Tennessee were required to check the state’s PDMP before prescribing opioids and the following year, New York saw a 75% drop in patients “doctor shopping” and Tennessee saw a 36% drop.

The Unfortunate Reality of PDMPs

Although PDMPs have significant potential to improve public health and patient outcomes, they do have the following shortcomings:

1. Under-Utilization

The inconsistent use, or under-utilization, of PDMPs is considered to be the biggest issue plaguing the database, as a PDMP is most useful when queried before prescribing and most maximized where usage is state mandated. A recent survey found that with physicians prescribing in a state without a PDMP mandate, only 22% were aware of their state’s PDMP, and only 53% had actually used it. These facts clearly indicate that state legislation is a critical success factor for the effectiveness of PDMPs to save patient lives.

2. Lack of Accessibility

Another issue with PDMPs is the ease of use and access, or lack thereof. States vary widely in which user categories are permitted to request and receive prescription history reports and under what conditions. Research suggests that usage may improve if states were to allow providers to appoint non-prescribing staff members to access the database on their behalf.

[Read: 3 States Laying Down the Law on Opioids]

Furthermore, not all PDMPs share information across state lines. This can lead to important information being missed and can allow at-risk patients to receive more prescriptions for controlled substances than intended. However, more states are realizing the importance of sharing data across state lines and have recently become a part of PMP InterConnect.

3. Varying Times of Information Entry

Another matter of concern with PDMPs is varying times of information entry. When a controlled substance is dispensed to a patient, the prescription and patient information is entered by the pharmacy to the state PDMP. However, this information is entered at varying intervals – hourly, daily, or even monthly. If there is a long interval between dispense and submission times into the state PDMP, users will not have the most up-to-date information on a patient’s most recent prescriptions, thereby eliminating the maximum benefit of a PDMP. Currently, Oklahoma is the only state that collects data in real time, whereas, most states allow up to a week or longer for data submission.

4. Patient Adoption

Many prescribers attribute their worry about a patient’s reaction when checking the PDMP as a major disadvantage. In a recent survey, providers reported a variety of issues that arose when they reviewed the PDMP:

  • 88% of patients reacted with anger or denial when questioned
  • 73% of clinicians said that those angered patients sometimes did not return
  • 22% of clinicians reported that the confronted patients had never asked for help with drug addiction or dependence problems

These clinicians also indicated that the unveiling of this information was not only upsetting to patients, and damaging to practitioner-patient relationships, but was also found to be inaccurate at times.

Additional concerns include added costs of more frequent office visits if prescribers become more cautious about writing prescriptions with refills, feelings of embarrassment when questioned about substance abuse, and patients turning to the illicit drug market if they are refused a controlled substance prescription.

Although the American Medical Association and American Society of Addiction Medicine stress the need to treat PDMP data just as well, if not better, than any other medical record, patients are becoming more vocal in their discomfort with PDMPs, claiming they make them feel that a medical consultation is no longer private.

5. Reluctant Prescribers

Like their patients, prescribers also show growing concern that they will be judged based on PDMP data. While most prescribers are assumed to support interventions to prevent fraudulent prescribing, high profile criminal prosecutions of prescribing large amounts of opioids can make prescribers reluctant to prescribe controlled substances in general for fear of legal retribution, also known as the “chilling effect”.

There is also greater perceived legal risk for prescribing or dispensing too much pain medication than for prescribing or dispensing too little pain medication. Because many practicing physicians have little if any formal training that would enable them to identify drug diversion, there is fear that PDMPs may wrongfully suspect and categorize some conscientious and caring physicians as fraudulent prescribers when they are actually prescribing in good faith, but lack training.

What Does This All Mean?

In this era of information technology, PDMPs are likely here to stay. While there are the aforementioned pitfalls of PDMPs, it is important to remember that there are still benefits to PDMPs in the public health sector, law enforcement, and of course, healthcare systems. What may be most helpful is to realize what changes could be made to make the PDMP process an ideal one.

From the standpoint of many prescribers, an ideal PDMP would:

  • Alert its users to signs of illegal drug use
  • Be easy to access
  • Provide real time updates
  • Be mandatory
  • Have interstates accessibility

Perhaps over time if these changes were to be made, we would see more consistent use of PDMPs, especially as a tool to help overcome the opioid epidemic. A clear standard of practice against which providers’ care would be judged could also further advance the utilization of PDMPs in each state. Lastly, adequate training on addiction and pain management, along with a careful review of who should access a PDMP, could also attribute to better utilization and help accelerate the acceptance of each states’ prescription drug monitoring programs.

Author: Lindsey W.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Lynn Webster MD; PDMP Assist; Wolters Kluwer; Shatterproof; National Center for Biotechnology Information

About DoseSpot

DoseSpot is a Surescripts certified e-Prescribing platform specifically designed to integrate with electronic health record, electronic dental record, practice management and telehealth software. DoseSpot is certified to e-Prescribe controlled substances and has provided simple, affordable and integratable e-Prescribing solutions to healthcare IT companies since 2009. For more information, please visit www.DoseSpot.com.

3 States Laying Down the Law on Opioids

Posted: October 27th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Basics, Controlled Substances, In the News, Public Policy, Security, Standards | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

On par with our last post, the widespread media attention and devastating losses associated with our nation’s current opioid epidemic has sparked certain state legislatures to regulate and improve providers’ prescribing habits for prescription painkillers.

With good intentions in tow, some rulings seem to lack readily available solutions that are proven to curb this crisis. However, they do realize that their recent proposals do not mark the end of this uphill battle, rather multifaceted solutions need to be in place to truly, and successfully, overcome this epidemic.

[Read: Overdose Awareness – The Time to Stand Together is Now]

Here are three states that have recently proposed rulings on how opioids should be prescribed:


Coined as a “cutting-edge” approach to overcoming the opioid crisis, Governor Peter Schumlin announced proposed limits on the number of opioid medications that could be prescribed.

Like every other state, Vermont has seen an incredible increase in deaths related to opioid and heroin overdose in recent years and Governor Schumlin is no longer sitting on the sidelines.

Earlier this year, he approached both the FDA and pharmaceutical industry in his State of the State address claiming that OxyContin “lit the match that ignited America’s opiate and heroin addiction crisis,” and that the booming American opiate industry knows no shame, an outcry after the FDA approved OxyContin for children a few months ago.

The proposed ruling states that the severity and duration of pain will determine the specific limit for a prescription of opioids. For example, a minor procedure with moderate pain would be limited to 9-12 opioid pills and the amount would increase based on the procedure performed and the level of pain a patient claims. The ruling would also require providers to discuss risks, provide an education sheet to the patient and receive an informed consent for all first-time opioid prescriptions.

The Green Mountain State’s Governor believes that limiting the number of opioid pills prescribed would be an effective way to reduce addiction, yet some folks believe the ruling would only encourage patients to seek illicit drugs elsewhere if they cannot receive pain medication through their provider.

This does make sense considering many former and current heroin abusers have stated that their addiction started from a prescription and when the pill bottle ran out, they were left seeking these drugs on the streets, which have proven to be very, if not more, dangerous than the prescription.

However, the intent of the Governor’s ruling is to prevent addiction from ever happening in the first place. His ruling is specific to cases of acute pain, therefore changing the over-prescribing habits and learned behavior of utilizing opioids as first-line therapy; habits that ensued in large part due to incentives, the surge of pharmaceutical marketing tactics and claims that painkillers were not addictive.

[Read: How Costly Are Prescription Pain Meds?]

New Jersey

With the rate of drug overdose deaths on the rise by 137% since 2000, New Jersey is another state to recently propose new regulations on how and to whom opioids are prescribed.

New Jersey, much like many other states, believes that prevention is key when fighting this crisis and they couldn’t be more correct. Unfortunately, several barriers often occur when seeking appropriate treatment after a patient becomes addicted, (for example, providers are limited to certain amounts for which they can administer reversal drugs), and therefore why not PREVENT addiction, rather than simply TREAT addiction when at many times, it’s too late?

Senator Raymond Lesniak has introduced a bill that would put restrictions on health insurance coverage for opioid medications, while also requiring prescribers to first consider alternative pain-management treatments, follow federal prescribing guidelines and explain the risk of addiction with such substances to their patients before prescribing. Furthermore, providers will need to complete several steps before receiving approval of an opioid prescription. These steps include providing a patient’s medical history, conducting a physical exam and developing an appropriate medical plan for treating a patient’s pain.

While new rulings in place can certainly shift this epidemic, Angela Valente, the executive director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, said it best:

“Awareness and education is the key factor in preventing the abuse of opiates—everyone must have a role in reversing this epidemic, including lawmakers, parents, coaches, educators, and yes, even doctors and dentists.” – Angela Valente

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians Responsible for Opioid Prescribing, further backs Valente’s point while also motioning that the medical community has been prescribing too aggressively.

[Read: The Opioid Epidemic: Are Dentists the Black Sheep?]


Unfortunately, Pennsylvania experienced 3,500 deaths last year as a result from drug overdose, one of the highest overdose rates in the nation.

The state has had a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program for quite a few years now, however it wasn’t functional until August 2016, when their new program was officially rolled out. Pennsylvania requires providers to query the state’s prescription drug database the first time they prescribe a controlled substance to a patient or if they have reason to believe that the patient is doctor shopping.

Governor Tom Wolf addressed other initiatives underway including requiring providers to query the database EACH time they prescribe opioids, updating medical school curriculum and continuing education, changes to the process of pain care to lower inappropriate use of opioids, and improved screening, referral and treatment for addiction.

What’s bothersome in Pennsylvania, is the method in which these substances have to be prescribed. The Pennsylvania Controlled Substance Act requires narcotic prescriptions to be handwritten on paper prescription pads, yet every other substance can be electronically prescribed. This allows the risk of written prescriptions being lost, stolen, or sold. Luckily, Senator Richard Alloway intends to introduce this measure before the legislative session’s end.

It’s promising to see how the above states are utilizing their state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, or PDMP. All three require their prescribers to query the affiliated state database, however the parameters in which, or how often, they check varies.

While said efforts are better than no effort at all and states are starting to fully understand the need for multifaceted solutions in order to overcome this epidemic, one key solution is missing. E-Prescribing.

[Read: The Link Between PDMP’s and e-Prescribing]

How does e-Prescribing help combat this epidemic?

  • e-Prescribing diminishes the possibilities of duplicate or lost prescriptions since the prescription is sent directly to the patient’s pharmacy
  • A patient will no longer have a paper prescription where the dispense quantity can be altered
  • Prescribers will have access to a patient’s medication history, therefore they can determine if a patient is “doctor shopping” or has a history of substance abuse

To learn how to incorporate e-Prescribing as a solution to the opioid epidemic, schedule a meeting with DoseSpot today.

Sources: NY Times; Boston.com; ABC News; Press of Atlantic City; PennLive

About DoseSpot

DoseSpot is a Surescriptsâ„¢ certified e-Prescribing platform specifically designed to integrate with electronic health record, electronic dental record, practice management and telehealth software. DoseSpot is certified to e-Prescribe controlled substances and has provided simple, affordable and integratable e-Prescribing solutions to healthcare IT companies since 2009. For more information, please visit www.DoseSpot.com.

Massachusetts’ Prescription Monitoring Program Takes a New Turn

Posted: October 20th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Controlled Substances, In the News, Standards | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

For the first 6 months of 2016 in Massachusetts, there have been almost 500 confirmed cases of unintentional opioid overdose deaths and an estimated 500 additional cases have not yet been confirmed.

The majority of overdoses found in MA are due to substances such as fentanyl and heroin, but rates of cocaine and benzodiazepines present in opioid deaths have been steady since 2014. Although the rates of heroin and prescription drugs present in opioid deaths have been decreasing due to many efforts that have been implemented across the nation, the rate of fentanyl has been on the rise. This is in large part due to the fact that many opioid addictions start at the hands of a prescriber with a prescription and when the pill bottle runs dry, patients are left seeking other options that produce the same euphoric effect.

With the rapid increase of deaths and devastation by way of the current opioid epidemic plaguing the state, Massachusetts has recently implemented further requirements concerning practitioner’s prescribing protocols. Specifically, with the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program, or PMP.

The PMP serves as a database for all prescription drugs that are dispensed across the state, including those that are highly sought after for non-medical use and represent the highest potential for abuse, better known as Schedule II-V drugs such as narcotics, sedatives, and stimulants.

When properly used, the PMP aids in the identification and prevention of drug misuse, diversion, and potential doctor shopping by providing a patient’s medication history of the past 12 months. It is meant to be utilized as a key clinical decision-making tool that allows providers to receive a big picture view of the patient they are treating in real time.

As a solution to this widespread epidemic, Massachusetts has introduced new legislation and requirements when utilizing the MassPAT (Massachusetts Prescription Awareness Tool).

Effective October 15, 2016, practitioners must abide by the following:

  1. A registered individual practitioner must utilize the prescription monitoring program each time the practitioner issues a prescription to a patient EACH time for a narcotic drug in Schedule II or III.
  2. A registered individual practitioner must utilize the prescription monitoring program prior to prescribing to a patient for the first time:
    1. A benzodiazepine; OR
    2. Any controlled substance in Scheduled IV or V which the department has designated in guidance as a drug that is commonly abused and may lead to dependence. At this time, there are no drugs that have received this designation.

Prior to the aforementioned requirements, legislation ruled that practitioners, among other factors, need only check the state PMP when prescribing a controlled substance to a patient for the first time, while it is now required for a practitioner to check the system EVERY time when prescribing Schedule II or III drugs.

An example of just how serious Massachusetts is about this crisis, and also believed to be the first agreement of its kind, CVS recently paid almost $800k to the state because pharmacists were not checking prescriptions or the database thoroughly. In exchange, CVS agreed to provide its pharmacists access to the PMP website, train its pharmacists to register for and use the PMP as appropriate, and has further agreed to implement policies that would require pharmacists to consult the PMP before dispensing certain opioids in MA.

Massachusetts and CVS, among many other organizations, recognize the importance of the state’s PMP as a tool to detect and prevent the abuse and misuse of controlled substances. The PMP is not meant to be another government-controlled, green monster hanging on a practitioner’s back at all times; it is meant to serve as a safety extension for practitioners, but most importantly for their patients.

PMP’s can also be most effective when linked with an e-Prescribing solution. Working together, e-Prescribing eliminates the need for paper prescriptions, thus reducing the risk of altered dispense quantities, stolen prescriptions or prescription pads, and the reselling of such prescriptions before they’re filled as a means of lessening the red flags if a patient is doctor shopping.

About DoseSpot

DoseSpot is a Surescriptsâ„¢ certified e-Prescribing platform specifically designed to integrate with electronic health record, electronic dental record, practice management and telehealth software. DoseSpot is certified to e-Prescribe controlled substances and has provided simple, affordable and integratable e-Prescribing solutions to healthcare IT companies since 2009. For more information, please visit www.DoseSpot.com.