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As Prescription Painkiller Overdoses Mount, Researchers Outline Effective Approaches to Curb Epidemic
Date:9/20/2012

ld analyze the data they collect," Peter Kreiner, Principal Investigator of Brandeis' Center of Excellence, continued, "and reach out to prescribers, pharmacists, insurers, law enforcement agents and others who can prevent powerful narcotics from falling into the wrong hands. Where this is already taking place, it has proven to be very effective."

"Good things happen when state prescription drug monitoring programs shift to a proactive strategy," said Dr. Nathaniel Katz, assistant professor of anesthesia at Tufts University School of Medicine. "Not only can it prevent painkillers from being misused or distributed illegally in the first place, but it can also enable health professionals to identify patients who need help overcoming addiction."

By the end of 2001, the report found that 16 states had authorized the creation of prescription drug monitoring programs; within 11 years that number had grown to 49. Today, 41 states have programs in operation.

The paper identified several practices with demonstrated effectiveness. For example:

  • States that collected prescribing data for all controlled substances (e.g., anti-anxiety medication as well as painkillers) reported lower rates of doctor-shopping (visiting multiple doctors to obtain prescriptions) than other states.
  • The rates of fatal painkiller overdoses grew more slowly in three states using state-issued prescription forms with uniquely configured page numbers, a practice designed to curb fraud.
  • Proactively sending alerts about possible abuse to physicians and pharmacists was associated with decreased prescription sales and lower rates of doctor-shopping.
  • Analyzing trend data helped law enforcement agencies identify "pill mills" that were illicitly distributing prescription painkillers.
  • Boosting doctors' participation in and utilization of prescription drug monitoring programs was associated with reduced fatal pre
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SOURCE The Pew Health Group
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