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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs - Why We Must Get This Right

Managing state drug databases can be challenging. For that matter, managing any kind of database can be challenging and if you are a proficient database manager (DBM) you are "worth your weight in gold." Database design takes time, it must be scalable using best practices; however, meeting the goals of a state's drug database can also be impacted by state specific legal issues and federal HIPAA medical privacy issues. Additionally while 43 states now have such databases and five more have passed legislation to create such a database (only Missouri and New Hampshire have not yet passed such a law), there is no national database and states struggle with sharing information.

You might think that state drug databases is something new in the efforts to prevent abuse, overdoses, and deaths, but it turns out that the oldest prescription drug monitoring program in the country dates back to California which started tracking prescriptions via carbon copies in 1939! In 1998, California's system became web-based. Most states now refer to their systems as Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP), but the struggles continue and are now additionally impacted by state budgets.

Why the urgency to design, maintain, and promote the efficacy of such databases?  Here are some facts:
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) prescription drug abuse now kills more people every year in the U.S. than cocaine and heroin combined.
  • In 2008 15,000 people died as a result of prescription painkillers. This is three times the 1999 statistic.
  • In 2010 12 million people in the U.S. aged 12 and over reported non-medical use of prescription painkillers.
Take some time to read some of the related articles listed below. You will get a better understanding of the problems faced by doctors, pharmacists, law enforcement agencies and ultimately patients.
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