Surprisingly, the non-medical prescription of drugs, including opioids, continues, with only states holding legislation against this dubious practice smothering the flames helping stoke the opioid addiction fire. Since 1999, deaths from prescription opioids have quadrupled, alongside opioid sales of painkillers such as oxycodone (Oxycontin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin). But this hasn’t stopped opioid abusing patients from trying to nab a couple of extra pills by ‘doctor shopping,’ the practice of hopping from physician to physician and playing the numbers until finding a doctor who will meet the patient’s desire for a few extra pills. Luckily states nationwide, alongside the insurance and healthcare community, are becoming increasingly aware of these issues, and are attempting to stem this contributing facet of the epidemic through the use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). And a new study has shown them astonishingly successful.

An Easy-to-Use, Effective Means of Curbing ‘Doctor Shopping’

Physicians utilizing these state-run electronic prescription databases, mandatory in some states and voluntary in others, offers them access to each patients prescription history, and the opportunity to see drug types and quantities prescribed to patients before breaking out the prescription pad. In addition to thwarting potentially deadly drug interactions and excessive dosages, a recent study has shown that these programs are highly effective for reducing the non-medical prescription of drugs, boasting a whopping 80% reduction in the odds two (or more) doctors would dole out pain relievers for non-medical reasons to a single patient in states with mandatory PDMP use, and slashing the odds 56% in states with voluntary participation. Every state except Missouri now has one of these programs. Other studies have also shown states tracking a wider range of potentially addictive medications and updating databases weekly witnessed the biggest reduction in overdose deaths.

Won’t Patients Turn to Illicit Substances?

Public health advocates have had this worry for quite some time, but the current study pointing to the massive, 80% reduction in non-medical prescription of opioids in those states with mandatory programs also uncovered some reassuring news. PDMPs did not, in fact, lead to an increase in doctor shopping individuals turning to heroin. This offers hope for the promise of PDMPs as part-and-parcel of a multifaceted, comprehensive strategy toward fighting the nation’s opioid epidemic, which steals the lives of 91 Americans each day.

About the Author: Anthony Sambucini is a founding principal and the Chief Executive Officer of ANS Solutions. Anthony specializes in bridging the goals of clinical innovation and business strategy that have helped propel ANS Solutions into a national leader in Pharmacotherapy Review Services for workers’ comp insurers and ANS Pharmacotherapy Review Program is the most advanced, results-oriented drug utilization review program in the industry. As a consultant to insurance carriers and attorneys, Anthony customizes services based on the particular needs of the client and oversees all activities related to business development and company operations. For more information about ANS Solutions visit