Maryland’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Picks Up Steam

Nine months after its launch the state’s prescription drug monitoring program is still ironing out issues and learning from the problems faced by other states. But there is hope Maryland’s program will help prevent doctor shopping and reduce overdose deaths. As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

But what it and other states cannot show is that such programs cut down on overdose deaths from all legal and illegal drugs, a lesson not lost on Maryland as its joins every other state in launching its own prescription drug monitoring system. Maryland hopes to succeed where others may have failed, and Gov. Martin O’Malley even set a goal of reducing overdose deaths by 20 percent by the end of 2015.

“We want to use data to drive people to treatment and services, while in other states the programs sit in law enforcement or pharmacy boards,” said Dr. Laura Herrera, the health department’s deputy secretary of public health services. “We think this has huge potential.”

Maryland became one of the last states to launch a prescription drug monitoring program when it began in December. The system still is registering users and working the kinks out, but officials and observers believe there are some important differences. The program is overseen by the health department with the aim of steering abusers to treatment, seeing larger prescribing trends and even heading off abuse.

Under Maryland’s law only pharmacies and dispensers are required to register with the system.  However, officials are targeting more doctors and prescribers to sign up. The article continues:

It’s unknown how many Maryland pharmacies and doctors will sign up through the program’s website and routinely check their patients’ drug histories. Only pharmacies and other dispensers were required by the 2011 law, not those who prescribe drugs.

The system now is adding about 150 doctors and pharmacists and others a week. About 4,500 accounts have been created, with about a third from pharmacies and the rest from doctors, dentists, registered nurses and others who can prescribe drugs, according to Michael Baier, program coordinator at the state health department’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration.

That accounts for a large portion of the pharmacies but a smaller share of doctors and other prescribers. There are about 14,000 to 16,000 practicing physicians in Maryland, according to MedChi, the state’s medical society, and Baier said officials have enlisted the group and others to spread information about the program and how to steer addicts to services.

The system is working through some technical issues such as slow operating and missing information, but will eventually be able to handle the growing load of users, information and queries.
For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun.