Prescription drug monitoring program design and function: A qualitative analysis

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Opioid-related overdose deaths are a major public health challenge. Forty-nine states have implemented Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) that collect information about individuals’ prescription medications. Little is known about state governments’ implementation of PDMPs. We conducted semi-structured interviews with PDMP staff, law enforcement officials, and administrative agency employees to learn about their attitudes and experiences with PDMPs. Methods From May 2015 to June 2016, we conducted 37 semi-structured interviews with state actors in four states. Questions focused on interviewees’ perceptions about PDMP goals, home agency characteristics, and future PDMP initiatives. States were selected purposively. Interviewees were identified through purposive and snowball sampling. Results Interviewees identified key PDMP goals as: improve patient treatment decisions; influence prescribing practices; assist in the identification of “doctor shoppers” and serve as a tool for law enforcement. Interviewees identified the following characteristics as key for a PDMP's home agency: regulatory and enforcement authority; intra- and inter-agency collaboration; and commitment to data quality and protection. Interviewees identified three promising areas for future PDMP efforts: data sharing and analysis; integration of PDMP data with electronic medical records; and training for current and potential PDMP users. Conclusions Our findings reveal areas that states may want to prioritize, including improving prescribers’ knowledge and use of the PDMP as well as fostering inter-agency collaborations that include PDMP staff. By capitalizing on these opportunities, state governments may improve the effectiveness of their PDMPs, potentially making them more useful tools to curb the morbidity and mortality associated with opioid use disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-400
Number of pages6
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


  • Opioid
  • PDMP
  • Prescription drug monitoring program
  • Public health practice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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