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Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) are a vital tool that have the power to prevent doctor shopping and help physicians identify at-risk patients. Not too long ago, it was easy for people to see multiple doctors to acquire opioid narcotics in a given month. The tactic was used by both people looking to turn a profit on highly sought after painkillers, such as OxyContin (oxycodone); those addicted to opioids would also engage in the same practice to ensure they would not run out of meds before they could refill.

Virtually every state has some version of PDMPs; however, not all doctors or pharmacies utilize the available resource. Efforts have been made to encourage those working in healthcare to use PDMPs—for doing so could prevent abuse, identify those who need help and prevent overdose. New research suggests that PDMPs help prevent as many as 10 opioid-overdose deaths a day in the U.S., Reuters reports. Researchers believe that improving state drug monitoring programs could raise that number to 12.

“Prescription drug-monitoring programs are a public health tool to ensure that we’re using opioids appropriately but limiting the negative health impacts we see in almost every community in the United States,” said lead author Dr. Stephen W. Patrick. “Our findings suggest that investments in upgraded prescription drug-monitoring programs will pay dividends in lives saved.” 

Fortunately, the U. S House of Representatives adopted the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) last Friday. One of the provisions of the legislation will work to strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs. The U.S. Senate voted to adopt CARA Wednesday, July 13, 2016, which  will now be sent to the President for signature.

Perhaps the most important aspect of PDMPs is that they can help doctors help patients get help for and opioid use disorder. Breaking free from opioid addiction is no easy task, and usually requires effective-evidence based treatments. CARA aims to expand access to addiction treatment services throughout the country, given as many people as possible the ability to find recovery.