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Science in the News

Implementation of Statewide Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs Associated with Decreases in Prescription Opioid Overdose Deaths

July 22, 2016 In 2014, there were 47,055 drug overdose deaths in the U.S., representing a 1-year increase of 6.5% compared with 2013; 61% of those deaths were related to opioid overdose.1  Forty-nine states in the U.S. (all but Missouri) have implemented prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), which are mandatory in some states, to track and analyze data from health care providers on controlled substance prescriptions with the hope of identifying and curbing high-risk patient (e.g., “doctor shopping”) or prescriber (e.g., high-volume or inappropriate prescribing) behaviors. A recent analysis2 from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and published in the journal Health Affairs found that implementation of a statewide PDMP was associated with an average reduction of 1.12 prescription opioid-related overdose deaths per 100,000 population in the year following program implementation.

Using an interrupted time series design, researchers analyzed publicly available data from the 35 states implementing a PDMP between the years 1999 to 2013 to examine the association of both the implementation of a PDMP and characteristics of the programs with the rate of opioid-related overdose deaths. Adjusted analyses found that implementation of a PDMP in a state was associated with an average reduction of 1.12 opioid-related overdose deaths per 100,000 population in the year following implementation. States with PDMPs having “robust” features (e.g., monitoring greater numbers of drugs with abuse potential and updating data at least weekly) had greater reductions in prescription opioid overdose deaths, compared to states with PDMPs lacking these features.  Although the authors acknowledged some limitations in their analysis, they estimated that if the state of Missouri, which is the only state currently without a PDMP, implemented a program in conjunction with other states enhancing their programs with robust features, “…there would be more than 600 fewer overdose deaths nationwide in 2016, preventing approximately two deaths each day.”

On March 16, 2016, the ADA, with support from the Providers’ Clinical Support System for Opioids (PCSS-O), hosted a webinar (link available to ADA members with login) addressing “….the scope of the prescription drug abuse problem; the history and purpose of [PDMPs]; how PDMPs operate; how to gain access to the PDMP; types of PDMP reports; PDMP effectiveness; and current status of PDMPs in the U.S.”  The ADA will be hosting another webinar on August 24, 2016 on tools to help dentists recognize signs of opioid abuse; registered participants in the live webinar session will be eligible for 1 hour of continuing education.  In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is hosting a webinar series on opioid prescribing; the first webinar entitled “CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain” was held June 22, 2016 and the materials are available on the CDC website.


  1. Rudd RA, Aleshire N, Zibbell JE, Gladden RM. Increases in Drug and Opioid Overdose Deaths--United States, 2000-2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;64(50-51):1378-82.
  2. Patrick SW, Fry CE, Jones TF, Buntin MB. Implementation Of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs Associated With Reductions In Opioid-Related Death Rates. Health Aff (Millwood) 2016;35(7):1324-32.

Prepared by: Center for Scientific Information, ADA Science Institute

About Science in the News

Science in the News is a service by the American Dental Association (ADA) to its members to present current information about science topics in the news. The ADA is a professional association of dentists committed to the public's oral health, ethics, science and professional advancement; leading a unified profession through initiatives in advocacy, education, research and the development of standards. As a science-based organization, the ADA's evaluation of the scientific evidence may change as more information becomes available. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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