A Pharmacist's Perspective: PDMP Checks are a Must

By: Emily Coleman

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Date: 04/09/2017

Filed Under: Healthcare, PDMPs, Opioid Epidemic, Pharmacist, Pharmacy

In recent years, the opioid abuse epidemic has taken center stage in the United States.  From stories in local newspapers, to nuanced discussions about the best policy solutions Washington can offer, it seems most people are in some way aware of the current crisis.  One of the most effective methods used to combat the rise in narcotic-related overdoses has been the implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) by 49 of 50 states.  These systems help to track controlled substances – who is prescribing them, who is receiving them, how much is prescribed and how often, etc.  While there is a lot of emphasis on the role physicians play in PDMPs being a meaningful tool, an important member of the healthcare team is often overlooked – the pharmacist. 


Most states with a PDMP require physicians who prescribe controlled substances to register with the appropriate system.  This makes sense given their essential role in prescribing medications and directing patients’ treatment.  However, some states require every pharmacist with an active license to register with the respective PDMP.  Even when not required to register, pharmacists have access to PDMPs and must learn to utilize them effectively.  We’ll discuss 3 reasons why pharmacists should be among the primary users of PDMPs.

Pharmacists are on the front lines of patient care

 A chronic pain patient likely only sees his or her physician 2-4 times every year.  During that same period a patient will interact with their pharmacist at least 12 times.  This regular contact builds strong relationships between pharmacist and patient, with the pharmacist helping to coordinate care between the patient’s multiple physicians.  Being a good steward of the trust placed in pharmacists requires vigilance in monitoring patients’ opioid prescriptions.  The most effective and thorough way to do that is by checking the PDMP database regularly.

Pharmacists should be working with physicians to ensure quality of care

 If pharmacists will consistently pull patients’ PDMP profile, they will be in the unique position to identify trends, positive and negative, and communicate with the patients’ physician about them.  For example, between doctor visits a pharmacist may notice that the patient has been using multiple pharmacies, was prescribed a benzodiazepine from a different physician, had several lapses in treatment, or displays an increased need for pain medication.  Proactive reporting of such information helps ensure patients get well-rounded care.

Pharmacists can help reduce opioid-related deaths

 Studies have linked PDMP utilization with the reduction in opioid-related deaths across the country.  Still, most pharmacists do not regularly query PDMPs.  Closing the gap between physician and pharmacist use of PDMPs could be a significant step in further reversing the narcotic overdose trend.  As healthcare providers, it is imperative that pharmacists do all they can to help address this public health crisis.

One of the primary criticisms of existing PDMPs is that the data produced is not user friendly.  AffirmHealth has addressed this issue directly.  AffirmHealth’s Dash presents PDMP information in a way that is easy to digest and turns it into actionable intelligence that aligns with the busy physician or pharmacist’s workflow.  This innovative system further removes barriers to utilizing PDMPs to their fullest extent in order to provide excellent patient care. 

Like what you've read. Download our latest free eBook, Solving the Opioid Epidemic: A Clinician's Perspective by AffirmHealth Chief Medical Officer Mario Ramirez, MD.

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