In a new survey, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that physicians report relatively high awareness of state databases that track drug prescriptions, but more than one-fifth indicated they were not aware of their state’s program at all.
In a survey of 420 primary care physicians published in the March issue of the journal Health Affairs, the researchers found that 72 percent indicated they were aware of their state’s program, and 53 percent reported they’d used their state’s program. Another 22 percent indicated they had no knowledge of their state’s program.
This is believed to be the first national survey examining physicians’ awareness and use of prescription drug monitoring programs, state-run databases that track prescriptions classified as federal controlled substances, including opioids. The programs are considered an important intervention aimed at curtailing prescription drug abuse and misuse, which has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. An estimated one-third of people aged 12 or older who used opioids for the first time in 2009 began by using a prescription drug without a prescription.
The databases allow prescribing physicians to identify “doctor shoppers” — people who obtain prescriptions from multiple physicians, either to use or to sell or both — and other potentially illicit or abusive behaviors. Every state with the exception of Missouri has a prescription drug monitoring program in place.