Washington’s Prescription Monitoring Program

Prescription drug misuse is a national and local problem. It has caused an alarming growth in overdose deaths, hospitalizations, admissions for substance abuse, and non-medical use. In Washington, deaths involving unintentional prescription pain reliever overdoses increased nearly 21-fold from 24 in 1995 to 490 in 2009. In the past decade, the numbers of hospitalizations for prescription pain reliever dependence and abuse have doubled, hospitalizations for methadone poisoning have increased five-fold, and poisoning hospitalizations from other prescription pain relievers have increased four-fold.

“In Washington, deaths involving unintentional prescription pain reliever overdoses increased nearly 21-fold from 24 in 1995 to 490 in 2009.”

The Washington State Department of Health is implementing a Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) to address this problem by collecting all records for schedule II, III, IV, and V drugs. Prescribers and pharmacists will be able to use this information as a tool in patient care.

The state health department held a public hearing June 27, 2011 for the proposed program rules. The rules are expected to be effective August 27, 2011. The adopted rules and more information (www.doh.wa.gov/hsqa/PMP/rules.htm) are available online. Dispensers are required to start reporting data on October 7, 2011. Over the summer, a data submission manual has been developed, along with other resources to help dispensers with this process. These resources are available online at www.wapmp.org. The system is expected to be ready to receive and respond to requests from prescribers and other system users by January 2012.

This program will affect practitioners in two different ways. First, any practitioner who dispenses controlled substances from their office (for more than a 24 hour supply) must submit those records to the state health department. Practitioners do not have to report any prescribing or administering of controlled substances — only dispensing. The draft rules require weekly data submission using electronic methods. If a practitioner does not have the necessary software to submit the required files there will be an online submission form that can be used to report individual dispensing records.

The second impact of the project actually is a tool to improve patient care and work to assure patient safety. Practitioners may request prescription history reports for their patients from the program. They will be able to access this information online 24 hours a day, seven days a week anywhere that a user has Internet access. The information provided will allow a practitioner to look for duplicate prescribing, misuse, drug interactions, and other potential concerns. By having this information available before prescribing or dispensing, a practitioner can provide improved care to their patients.

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