Combating Prescription Abuse

Florida Drug Monitoring Program Promising

By: | January 21, 2014

Nancy Grover is the president of NMG Consulting and the Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

Deaths caused by prescription drugs are down, prescriptions for two of the most harmful drugs have fallen, and doctor shopping has been reduced in the first years of the Florida prescription drug monitoring program, according to a new state report.

Florida’s Legislature adopted the program in 2009 with a mandate to establish a “comprehensive database system that collects controlled substance prescription information from health care practitioners within seven days of dispensing controlled substances to a patient,” according to the report. “Its use is not mandatory.” The Electronic Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substances Evaluation, or E-Force, became operational in September 2011.

The annual report is required by law and focuses on the program’s effects on the following outcomes:

  • Reduction in the rate of inappropriate use of prescription drugs through the state Department of Health’s education and safety efforts.
  • Reduction of the quantity of pharmaceutical controlled substances obtained by individuals attempting to engage in fraud and deceit.
  • Increased coordination among interested parties participating in the prescription drug monitoring program.
  • Involvement of stakeholders in achieving improving patient health care and safety and reduction of prescription drug diversion.
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“Florida has seen promising results since the implementation of E-Force,” according to the 2012-13 annual report. “The effectiveness of the prescription drug monitoring program is reflected in the Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners 2012 report which shows that deaths caused by oxycodone plunged by almost 41 percent in 2012 and overall drug deaths fell by 9.9 percent. In the same period, the prescription drug monitoring program documented a 51 percent decrease in the number of individuals receiving prescriptions from five or more prescribers and five or more pharmacies in a 90-day period.”

Additionally, prescriptions for oxycodone and methadone — two of the four most harmful prescription drugs — fell by 24 percent and 8 percent respectively, according to a message from Dr. John H. Armstrong, Florida’s surgeon general and secretary, that accompanied the report.

There are currently more than 87 million prescription dispensing records for controlled substances in the database, according to the report. In the first two years, physicians and pharmacists made more than 6.4 million requests to view their specific patients’ controlled substance dispensing history. In the last year, physicians and pharmacists queried these records more than 3.7 million times, a 61 percent increase over the prior year. Law enforcement has requested and received more than 33,000 investigative reports from program staff to assist in active criminal investigations involving controlled substances.

“Evidence of the value of the PDMP as a clinical decision-making tool to reduce prescription drug abuse, misuse and diversion is supported not only by the increased usage but also by a 28 percent increase in health care practitioner registration,” the report noted. “Additionally, 82.8 percent of 2,000 PDMP users surveyed this year thought all prescribers and dispensers should use E-Force to inform their controlled substance prescribing and dispensing clinical decisions.”

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