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To Curb Addiction And Overdose, Prescribers Must Join Drug Monitoring Database

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Health department officials have a plan to compel more doctors to use a prescription drug monitoring program. That’s one piece of the effort to fight...

Health department officials have a plan to compel more doctors to use a prescription drug monitoring program. That’s one piece of the effort to fight opioid addiction and overdose.

A prescription drug monitoring program, or PDMP, is an online database. It’s supposed to help anyone who prescribes controlled substances like painkillers or anxiety medications look up a patient’s history with those drugs. The idea is to spot signs of trouble, like dangerous drug combinations, or addiction. 

Rhode Island’s PDMP has been around since late 2012, but so far just a little more than half of prescribers have registered. Now, chief administrative officer of the health department's Office of Medical Licensing and Discipline Dr. Jim McDonald says those who don’t could face sanctions.

“What our health department is going to be forced to do, regrettably," said McDonald at a public hearing about the proposed regulations, "is file a complaint with their licensing board.”

Doctors have complained that the PDMP is hard to use, and takes too much time. But McDonald says they’re making improvements with a fresh round of federal grant dollars. Prescribers can already designate a staff member to check the PDMP. Soon, says McDonald, the system will be able to send alerts and could even be integrated into a practice's electronic medical record system.

Information about a patient's history with prescriptions, including extremely high doses of opioid painkillers, or dangerous combinations of drugs, like opioids and an anxiety medication called benzodiazepines, could help prescribers spot trouble.
Information about a patient's history with prescriptions, including extremely high doses of opioid painkillers, or dangerous combinations of drugs, like opioids and an anxiety medication called benzodiazepines, could help prescribers spot trouble.