The federal government should provide funding and technical support to states to improve interstate data sharing between state-run prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to better track prescriptions written for addictive medications.

That’s one of the recommendations made by a Presidential Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which issued its interim report to President Trump on Monday. The panel is calling on the commander-in-chief to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency.

Among the recommendations in the initial report is a call for better exchange of data to support defenses against abuse.

PDMPs are meant to electronically collect and share data on prescriptions for controlled substances to flag suspicious prescribing and drug use. However, according to the commission, states are doing a poor job sharing the information from these databases to help physicians make informed decisions about whether patients are opioid abusers.

While PDMPs are an effective and important clinical tool to combat the opioid crisis, the databases are underutilized in most states, the interim report finds.

“Forty-nine states now have PDMPs, but not nearly a majority of those are sharing their information,” according to the commission, which called the situation unacceptable. “We urge you to direct the VA and HHS to lead an effort to have all state and federal PDMP systems to share information and to set a deadline of July 1, 2018, to achieve this data sharing.”

“In addition to sharing data between states and the federal government, the PDMP needs to be improved with regard to its ease of use, and inclusion of other data to assist prescribing doctors,” recommends the report. “Ideally, clinicians should check their state PDMP before making the decision to prescribe either an opioid or benzodiazepine (several states already have this requirement in place), determine whether their patient has had an overdose, and other relevant information that can be summarized into categories of high to low risk.”

Also See: EHR data shows drop in opioid prescribing by doctors

Health IT Now, a coalition of patient groups, provider organizations, employers and payers, applauded the commission’s recommendations.

“We are pleased the President’s Commission has adopted the Health IT Now recommendations and those of other stakeholders who call for harnessing the full potential of PDMPs to combat the opioid epidemic,” said HITN President Joel White. “We need tools that work across state lines, EHRs and management systems to give real time data within a provider’s work flow, so they have good information at the point of care before a prescription is dispensed. Until we achieve this, dangerous loopholes will continue to hinder the tools our doctors and pharmacists use to identify and stop opioid misuse.”

The commission, established by a March 29 executive order, will issue a final report with an additional set of detailed recommendations in the fall.

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