Massachusetts credits database with 30% opioid prescription reduction

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A recent upgrade has injected new life into Massachusetts’ prescription monitoring efforts, resulting in better coordination of care because of the database and reduced orders for opioids.

Massachusetts has the oldest Prescription Drug Monitoring Program in the United States and—under an October 2016 state law—all prescribers must query the electronic database before writing any new opioid prescriptions.

The Massachusetts Prescription Awareness Tool (MassPAT) was showing its age around the time last year’s law required Bay State doctors to check the database, according to Marylou Sudders, State Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Sudders told an opioid symposium on Wednesday—hosted in Washington by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—that the state’s system was “clunky, in the sense that it was difficult for prescribers to use.” She said the common complaint was that “it took 20 clicks and at least 25 minutes” before users could get on to the PDMP.

As a result, Massachusetts created a new and improved MassPAT within 18 months. The upgrades appear to be doing the trick, according to Sudders, who contends that the new system is user-friendly, takes 1.5 seconds to get into it, can be integrated into a patient’s electronic health record so it’s part of the clinical workflow, and is now connected with 31 states and the District of Columbia to share patient prescription data.

Interoperability with other states is “especially important in New England and our border communities” in order to curb doctor-shopping across state lines by patients seeking access to opioids, Sudders added. “Two years ago, our interoperability with other states was quite small,” she acknowledged. “We will be connected with many more states by the end of this fiscal year.”

Also See: States need to share prescription data to combat opioid crisis, finds commission

Just as significant, Sudders reported that over nearly three years, Massachusetts has seen a 30 percent decline in prescribing of opioids and that opioid-related overdose deaths fell 10 percent in first nine months of 2017, compared with the same period last year.

“Since the system has launched, there have been more than 6.5 million searches on MassPAT with a weekly average of approximately 125,000 searches,” noted Sudders. “The total number of physicians registered is about 95 percent of all prescribers in Massachusetts.”

In addition, she said that 97 percent of prescribers that prescribed at least one Schedule II or III opioid have registered with MassPAT.

However, the Boston Herald reported last month that in the first half of 2017, about a third of physicians who wrote prescriptions didn’t search MassPAT and that most were doctors who infrequently prescribe opioids.

Nonetheless, Sudders emphasized the fact that MassPAT’s data will be used to inform prescribers about their opioid prescribing practices, “including affirmative reporting of prescribers to their licensing boards if people are not following the law.”

In addition, she noted that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker introduced legislation on November 14 “intended to continue to work with our prescriber community, make data more available to communities, and expand access to treatment—particularly targeted to the highest risk populations.”

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