prescription-drug-monitoring-programThe southern states have been hit particularly hard by the prescription drug abuse crisis. After years of oversight shortcomings and rampant over prescribing doctor shopping became common practices. States in the south became well known for having an abundance of what are known as “pill mills,” pain management clinics which practically guaranteed patients would walk out with a prescription for a powerful opioid narcotic. Florida, especially, was considered to have one of the worst prescription drug problems in the country.

In 2011, Florida implemented a prescription drug monitoring program which, new research indicates, resulted in a 25 percent decline in deaths due to oxycodone overdoses, Medical Xpress reports. Between 2007 and 2010, oxycodone-related deaths in Florida increased 118.3 percent.

Recognizing the growing problem, in 2010 law enforcement officials began going after “pill mills,” and imposed new penalties for doctors found overprescribing. Researchers at the University of Florida found that Florida’s prescription drug monitoring program saved lives exponentially in a relatively short period of time, according to the article.

“Forty-nine states have prescription drug monitoring programs of some kind, but this is the first study to demonstrate that one of these programs significantly reduced oxycodone-related deaths,” lead author Chris Delcher, PhD, said in a news release. “Our work fills an urgent need for rigorous evaluation of these programs, so we can see what is working and what could be done better to help save lives and improve patients’ health care.”

Prescription drug monitoring programs keep track of a patient’s controlled substance prescriptions. Such programs make it much more difficult for patients to visit several doctors to acquire multiple prescriptions of the same drug.

“Previous studies have lacked the ability to examine differences in oxycodone-related deaths over smaller periods of time, which can obscure the effects of some prescription drug monitoring programs,” said Bruce A. Goldberger, Ph.D., a professor and director of toxicology in the department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine, whose team used data on oxycodone-caused deaths from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission from January 2003 to December 2012 for this study.

“While there is still much work to be done, we were able to tease out precise differences that showed us that Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is having a sizable effect on the number of oxycodone deaths. This is a crucial first step in preventing overdose deaths and in establishing best practices for programs like these across the nation.”

The research was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.