Study Finds Only Half of Doctors Use State Programs Meant to Curb Doc Shopping

While the majority of primary care physicians are aware of and use state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to reduce drug abuse and diversion, many do not access these programs routinely, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The study, published in Health Affairs, found nearly one-fifth of doctors were not at all aware of their state’s PDMP. The authors surveyed 420 primary care physicians and found that while 72 percent were aware of the program, only 53 percent reported having used it.

“The success of these programs depends on physicians’ knowledge, impressions and use of them,” study leader Lainie Rutkow, JD, PhD, an associate professor in the department of health policy and management at the Bloomberg School, said in a news release. “While awareness of the programs is relatively high, barriers exist. The information in our report about the barriers physicians face will give states something to focus on.”

State drug monitoring programs include databases that allow physicians to identify people who obtain prescriptions from multiple physicians and other potentially illicit or abusive behaviors. Missouri is the only state without a PDMP in place. In the last 3 years, 12 states had introduced new programs.

“To increase the use of the programs in clinical practice, states should consider implementing legal mandates, investing in prescriber education and outreach, and taking measures to enhance ease of access to and use of the programs,” the authors recommended.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that one in 143 patients who were prescribed an opioid painkiller in 2008 were potential doctor shoppers – accounting for 2 percent of all opioid prescriptions that year. The number of people who overdose on opioid pain relievers has quadrupled since 1999, according to the agency.

The International Business Times reported today that for doctors who knew that a PDMP was offered within their state, the vast majority – 98 percent -- found it to be at least somewhat useful and about three-fourths of physicians who used the programs said they had cut back on their opioid prescriptions as a result.