Drug Policy

Prescription Drug Monitoring: Doesn't Save Lives, Causes Unnecessary Pain, but at Least It's Monitoring


Followup to what Jacob Sullum wrote earlier today about the idiotic cruelty of Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen getting on Florida Gov. Rick Scott's case for not being for prescription drug monitoring databases, allegedly important for the completely unimportant public policy concern of stopping people from "abusing" painkillers.

The latest research on Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) shows, unsurprisingly (not that their proponents care at all, at all) that they do nothing to prevent overdoses. From Pain Treatment Topics:

Beginning in 2003, development of PDMPs have been supported in part by federal funding from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services, and with passage in 2005 of the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act, or NASPER, state PDMPs have proliferated. As of spring 2010 a total of 35 states had operational programs and 6 states had enacted legislation authorizing such programs [data can be accessed here].

….Writing in the February 2011 online edition of the journal Pain Medicine, a team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, led by Leonard Paulozzi, MD, MPH — a widely-respected medical epidemiologist in the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention — quantify the impact of PDMPs on mortality rates from drug overdose and how these rates compare with quantities of opioid drugs distributed at the state level [Paulozzi et al. 2011].

For their retrospective observational study the investigators accessed U.S. mortality data by state and by year for 1999 through 2005. Overdose deaths, excluding suicides, involving opioid analgesic poisoning were identified, and other data were gathered covering the time period of interest, including U.S. demographic data and distribution data for the 7 most commonly prescribed opioids: the Schedule III drug hydrocodone, and the Schedule II drugs fentanyl, hydromorphone, meperidine, methadone, morphine, and oxycodone. During at least some portion of the 6-year observational period, 19 states had operational PDMPs.

The investigators found that during the study period the nationwide rates for drug overdose mortality approximately doubled overall and rates specifically for opioid-related overdose mortality tripled. At the same time, average per-person opioid analgesic consumption throughout the U.S. roughly tripled. Surprisingly, the operation of PDMPs were NOT significantly associated with any lower rates of drug overdose or opioid overdose mortality, or with declining rates of opioid drug consumption…..

Paulozzi and coauthors conclude that, "…it can be said unequivocally that PDMP states did not do any better than non-PDMP states in controlling the rise in drug overdose mortality from 1999 to 2005." Not only were PDMPs a failure in stemming drug overdose mortality but their expected effect on overall consumption of opioids appeared to be minimal.

Radley Balko wrote for us back in February 2008 on drug warrior opposition to the drug naloxone, which can save the lives of people overdosing on opiates.

[Hat tip: the Drug Policy Alliance's Meghan Ralston]

NEXT: Why Barofsky Mattered

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  1. So what? You can never succeed if you don’t even try in the first place.

    1. “So what? You can never succeed if you don’t even try in the first place.”

      “Who cares if it doesn’t work? It’s the intent that matters!”

    2. Succeed at stopping people from being free? Why would we want that?

      1. How else is one supposed to get their rocks off, huh smart guy?

  2. Leela: How did you do it? Drugs in the champagne? Hypnosis?

    Fry: No! Drugs are for losers, and hypnosis is for losers with big, weird eyebrows!

    1. Are you quoting chick flicks to us again?

      1. Only to you, Commodore Decker.

    2. Futurama is meh.

      1. Only to you, Captain Quaalude*.

        * A kid in my high school had a “Captain Quaalude” t-shirt. It was completely awesome.

        1. Ironic. I have a “meh.” t-shirt.

          And a better quote might have been – Fry: Wow, this is like that drug trip I saw in that movie when I was on that drug trip.

  3. Clearly Scott reads Reason. So, hopefully, he’ll use this information to write a kick-ass op-ed.

  4. allegedly important for the completely unimportant public policy concern of stopping people from “abusing” painkillers.

    If the databases don’t work, and considering the privacy concerns, they should be dropped. However, stopping drug abuse is not unimportant, it is critically important. Drug use causes lots of illness, crime and accidents, it is not victimless because of all the crime it causes.

  5. Yet another nanny state program that doesn’t do anything constructive, probably harms numerous people with chronic pain, costs(I’m assuming) a bunch of money and, will be defended to the death by the politicians.

    “I just don’t understand why you could be a libertarian”

  6. The study is flawed.

  7. This proved that Florida is the largest number of people taking prescription drugs. Mentioned Findrxonline in your website which are the famous clinics for pain that sold prescriptions as if they were any drugs and that is what must be completed to prevent further deaths of innocent people.

  8. People really should read this information, pull their heads out of their butts and educate themselves
    . If this pdmp is passed and goes online, the amount of suffering to people addicted and physically dependant on opiate based prescription drugs could be sheer torture. If the govt and law enforcement only knew the amount of GOOD human beings that just want treatment but cannot afford it I know that funds would be approved to be spent accordingly.WHEN this database goes live just wait and see- their will be an enormous spike in violent crime. When people cannot get access to the opiates to stop their bodies from “prolonged heroin withdrawal” they will stop at nothing to make the torture stop.Wake up and heed my warning. This PDMP does nothing but give false hope to the poor souls left behind to try to make sense of their loved ones overdose deaths. If you want to make a difference in the “pill mill” world as we know it-sponsor treatment for someone deserving in your loved ones name. That is a priceless gift that would really make the difference.

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