Perceived Unintended Consequences of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

Alden Yuanhong Lai, Katherine C. Smith, Jon S. Vernick, Corey S. Davis, G. Caleb Alexander, Lainie Rutkow

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Background: Opioid-related injuries and deaths continue to present challenges for public health practitioners. Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) are a prevalent policy option intended to address problematic opioid pain reliever (OPR) prescribing, but previous research has not thoroughly characterized their unintended consequences. Objectives: To examine state actors’ perceptions of the unintended consequences of PDMPs. Methods: We conducted 37 interviews with PDMP staff, law enforcement officials, and administrative agency employees in Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, and Ohio from May 2015 to June 2016. Results: We identified six themes from the interviews. Perceived negative unintended consequences included: access barriers for those with medical needs, heroin use as OPR substitute and related deaths, and need for adequate PDMP security infrastructure and management. Perceived positive unintended consequences were: community formation and problem awareness, proactive population-level OPR monitoring, and increased knowledge about population-level drug diversion. Conclusions/Importance: State actors perceive a range of both negative and positive unintended consequences of PDMPs. Our findings suggest that there may be unintended risks of PDMPs that states should address, but also opportunities to maximize certain benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-349
Number of pages5
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 28 2019


  • Prescription opioids
  • prescription drug monitoring programs
  • public health practice
  • qualitative
  • unintended consequences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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