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Pain Physician. 2009 May-Jun;12(3):507-15.

The influence of prescription monitoring programs on chronic pain management.

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  • 1Division of Pain Medicine Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.



Abuse of prescribed controlled substance has become a serious social as well as health care issue over the past decade. A particularly alarming trend exists among patients aged 12 to 17. Common abuse behaviors include doctor shopping, drug theft, feigned pain symptoms to gain health care access, drug sharing, prescription forgery, and improper prescription practices. In response to this epidemic of abuse, many states have adopted prescription monitoring programs (PMPs). Such programs first originated in the early twentieth century. As of 2006, 38 states had such programs, many of which are supported by federal grants. As PMPs become more widespread, they have also increased in sophistication. By keeping a record of the prescription and dispensing of narcotics, these programs are able to build a comprehensive data network for tracking prescription medications. These databases aid law enforcement agencies in investigations of narcotic trafficking; they also help state regulatory boards to monitor improper prescription practices.


This manuscript examines the basic structure of a PMP, including the way the data are collected and the way these data are stored and used. It also looks at the organizational differences amongst state programs. NASPER and Harold Rogers are two federal programs that provide funding to the state PMPs, and the current study examines the differences as well as similarities between these 2 programs. This study also compares the results of 2 reports: the U.S. General Accounting Office Study and the Twillman study.& Both studies have evaluated the efficiency of the PMPs.


The U.S. General Accounting Office Study showed that while considerable differences exist among the state PMPs, these programs not only reduce the time and effort for law enforcement agencies to conduct investigations, but also cut the supply of prescription medications. However, the Twillman report suggests that prescription programs caused a shift in prescription practice, while the actual rate of abuse may not have been reduced. These 2 studies both point to the challenges the PMPs face. However, more recent data suggest that proactive use of the PMPs results in the decreased growth of prescription medication sales. Finally, a number of states have also begun to objectively evaluate the efficiencies of the system.


Many states have developed PMPs to help regulatory agencies as well as physicians detect prescription drug abuse. Limited data so far suggest that such programs reduce abuse practices. In addition, proactive usage of the data further prevents abuse.

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