Friday, October 19, 2012

Can Programs Monitoring Opioid Prescriptions Control an Abuse Epidemic?

At least 48 states have established programs to monitor prescription and sale of opioid pain medications in an attempt to rein in the rapidly expanding abuse of these drugs. Among the states with such a program is Colorado. But a report in the Denver Post October 18 quotes a Drug Enforcement Administration official who said that the agency's data indicate that pharmacists filling the prescriptions and physicians writing them check the register only 10% to 15% of the time before issuing or filling opioid prescriptions, calling into question the effectiveness of these monitoring programs. Physicians and pharmacists in Colorado are encouraged to check the database for signs of unusual prescribing or buying patterns, but are not required to do so, and "there appears to be little support for making a cross-check of the database mandatory before writing or dispensing opioid prescriptions," the article noted.

One opioid prescription monitoring program that does appear to have achieved considerable success is PharmaNet in British Columbia, Canada, which has been operational since 1995. That program, which monitors benzodiazepine prescriptions as well as those for opioids, is credited with a 33% reduction in inappropriately filled opioid prescriptions and a 49% reduction in inappropriately filled benzodiazepine prescriptions. Read more about the study showing the success of the PharmaNet system in the new issue of Psychiatric News.

(Image: Minerva Studio/


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