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Student & Alumni Achievements

Florida Alumnus Finds the State May Miss Federal Goal of More Doctors Using Prescription Drug Database

Amid an opioid epidemic in Florida, physicians and pharmacists are only making limited use of a statewide database meant to deter prescription drug abuse, according to a study by Dr. Chris Delcher, a graduate of the doctoral program at the department of epidemiology in the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine.

That lack of participation puts Florida at risk of not meeting a federal policy goal of doubling the number of health care providers using the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.

Just 21 percent of doctors and 57 percent of pharmacists had signed up for Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, or PDMP, as of November 2016, according to the researchers. Some 25,000 physicians and 31,000 pharmacists in Florida must register by the end of 2017 to meet national policy goals set by President Barack Obama. The findings were published in the Journal of Opioid Management.

More broadly, the findings reveal there are new opportunities to encourage physicians to use the database by making them aware of current and future government incentives, said Dr. Delcher, an assistant professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of health outcomes and policy. Unlike Florida, 27 states have mandatory database registration. In California, Tennessee and Kentucky, mandated registration resulted in triple-digit percentage increases in registration. In late September, Florida Gov. Rick Scott proposed that all health care professionals who prescribe or dispense medication must use the PDMP. The proposal will be discussed when the next legislative session begins in January.

For now, Dr. Delcher hopes that Scott declaring the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, along with better awareness of the database among physicians, will help boost its use.

“Our focus is mostly on trying to get voluntary buy-in by showing how valuable the database is from a public health perspective,” Dr. Delcher said.

The latest research was meant to determine whether more physicians and pharmacists were signing up for and using the database between 2013 and 2016, said Dr. Delcher. He and his colleagues also projected the probability of meeting federal officials’ PDMP registration goal, which is a few months away.

“We determined that Florida would not be likely to meet that objective in the absence of a statewide change in policy,” Dr. Delcher said.

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