Florida's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Reduces Oxycodone-Related Deaths

By McCarton Ackerman 04/21/15

Florida’s prescription drug monitoring program has been widely praised.

spilled pill bottle.jpg

State prescription drug monitoring programs across the country have been shown to reduce doctor shopping when used properly, but a new study out of Florida is the first to link these programs to Oxycodone-related deaths.

Florida’s prescription drug monitoring program, Prescgram, provides current data on prescribing trends throughout the state, as well as the controlled substance prescriptions of individual patients. Researchers from the University of Florida began examining the program once it was established in 2011 and found that it led to an additional 25% drop in Oxycodone-related deaths. Their findings were published in the latest issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“Forty-nine states have prescription drug monitoring programs of some kind, but this is the first study to demonstrate that one of these programs significantly reduced Oxycodone-related deaths,” said lead author Chris Delcher, PhD. “Our work fills an urgent need for rigorous evaluation of these programs, so we can see what is working and what could be done better to help save lives and improve patients’ health care.”

Just four months after it was implemented, Florida already surpassed Kentucky’s rate of health care providers who requested summaries of controlled prescription drugs filled by individual patients.

However, Oxycodone-related deaths had already been declining since 2010 due to local law enforcement crackdowns on “pill mills,” harsh new penalties for physicians who overprescribed, and an abuse-deterrent form of Oxycodone that made it impossible to crush the pill and snort its contents.

But prior to that point, Florida was dealing with an epidemic of Oxycodone addiction. From 2007 to 2010, the rate of Oxycodone-caused deaths soared by 118%.

Despite the documented benefits of these drug monitoring programs, many doctors aren’t taking advantage of them. Researchers at John Hopkins University reported last month that despite 72% of doctors knowing that their state’s programs existed, only 53% said they used it. Most cited time constraints or a lack of ease in using the program.

Those who do use these programs, however, have widely praised them. About 98% of doctors who used their state programs said they found it to be useful, while 75% reported that the program helped them cut back on their opioid prescriptions.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.