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Health Affairs: Assessing The Impact Of State Policies For Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs On High-Risk Opioid Prescriptions


Policies and practices have proliferated to optimize prescribers' use of their states' prescription drug monitoring programs, which are statewide databases of controlled substances dispensed at retail pharmacies. Our study assessed the effectiveness of three such policies: comprehensive legislative mandates to use the program, laws that allow prescribers to delegate its use to office staff, and state participation in interstate data sharing. Our analysis of information from a large commercial insurance database indicated that comprehensive use mandates implemented during 2011–15 were associated with a 6–9 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions with high risk for misuse and overdose. We also found delegate laws to be associated with reductions of a similar magnitude for selected outcomes. In general, the effects of all three policies strengthened over time, especially beginning in the second year after implementation. Our findings support comprehensive use mandates and delegate laws to optimize prescribers' use of drug monitoring programs, but the results will need updates in the context of evolving state opioid policies—including the increasing integration of drug monitoring data with electronic health records.