New Report: Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs Are a Tool, Not a Single Solution to Reduce Opioid-related Deaths 

Despite the success of Pennsylvania’s drug monitoring program against overprescribing, overall overdose deaths increased.

Yunfeng Shi, PhD, Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Administration at Penn State, recently was interviewed by PublicSource about Pennsylvania’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). Launched in 2016, the program tracks prescriptions of controlled substances to prevent overprescribing. All providers authorized to prescribe controlled substances must register with the program and pharmacies and other dispensers must enter data by the end of the next business day to ensure the PDMP information is up-to-date. Failure to meet the provisions of the PDMP law could result in sanctions. Shi thinks the mandates are essential: “Studies have observed the reduction in opioid prescriptions when you have a PDMP that holds physicians legally accountable.”

Despite the success of Pennsylvania’s PDMP in curtailing overprescribing, effectively decreasing chances for patients to become addicted to opioids and other substances, its success against the opioid epidemic is limited as overall overdose deaths increased in 2020 (note that the convergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and opioid epidemic proved uniquely challenging). According to Shi, “PDMPs are a program to reduce unnecessary opioid prescriptions” but “alone can’t win the fight to reduce opioid-related deaths.” Jeff Hanley, executive director of the Commonwealth Prevention Alliance, echoed Shi, viewing prevention programs as a “long-term solution that would be more effective in the future once we had the kinks worked out.”