The opioid crisis began in the 1990s and has since reached epidemic proportions. A 2018 U.S. government report found prescription or illegal opioid use contributed to most of the 67,367 drug overdose deaths in the United States in the surveyed period. Drug overdose death is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.
One primary source of opioids in the U.S. are “pill mills,” unregulated pain management doctors who make prescription opioids readily available to patients, often without diagnostic work.
In 2010, 90 out of every 100 doctors prescribing opioids worked in Florida pain clinics. That year, those doctors prescribed approximately 500 million opioid pills, most of which were likely diverted and illegally sold.
In recent years, patients have also visited multiple doctors, sometimes receiving prescriptions for thousands of pills, which they then sold on the street, fueling the epidemic.
In response to the epidemic and seeking to save lives, the state of Florida created the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) in 2009, enabling health care providers to track controlled substance prescriptions. Now, most U.S. states also have a PDMP.
What is a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program?
A prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) electronically tracks controlled substance prescriptions in a state. The database allows physicians to see which prescription medicines a patient is currently receiving, making it difficult for patients to “doctor shop” and protecting patients from adverse drug interactions.
PDMPs help physicians monitor their own prescribing behavior and provide valuable information about statewide prescribing trends of controlled substances. Creators of the program designed it to “improve opioid prescribing, inform clinical practice, and protect patients,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In 2009, the state of Florida created a PDMP called E-FORCSE (Electronic Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substance Evaluation Program), “to encourage safer prescribing of controlled substances and to reduce drug abuse and diversion within the state of Florida.”
In 2018, a Florida law on controlled substance prescribing added certain requirements to E-FORCSE. Among those was the requirement that health care providers check the database before prescribing opioids or any controlled substance to patients age 16 or older. The new law also places a three or seven-day limit on the prescription of opioids for acute pain.
The Florida PDMP, Controlled Substances Law, and other measures are making a difference in the state. Between 2010 and 2015, 80 percent of Florida counties showed a decrease in opioid prescriptions and a reduction in opioid overdose deaths, including a 50 percent decrease in oxycodone overdose deaths, according to CDC statistics.
Although states like Florida are making progress, the opioid crisis is still very real. U.S. government statistics report over 760,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose, with two-thirds of those deaths linked to opioids.
The more health providers focus on responsible prescribing and the more people understand what addiction treatment resources are available and how to access them, the fewer people will die from a drug overdose.
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