My name is Friday. I'm a cop.

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  • 09/13/2013

TGIF. Now let’s talk about Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP) and the intended and unintended consequences thereof.

How wide a net should PDMPs cast before they begin to have the unintended consequence of restricting legitimate patient access? Well, according the general consensus at Tuesday’s Capital Hill conference on Personalized Medicine and Responsible Access to Pain Medication, PDMPs should include Schedules 2-4. To infinity and beyond may make for good soundbites, but makes no practical sense.

What about e-standards for inter-operability with electronic health records? This point was made by Bob Twillman, of the American Academy of Pain Management. Big Data is certainly part of the answer. Knowledge is Power.

And speaking of data – what about data entry? PDMPs should allow not only pharmacists, but also physicians and their staffs to be able to enter and update electronic records. Let’s get real – this is already the reality on the ground. But this must also be matched with proper oversight for both quality control and appropriate access.

This raises the prospect of doing something that Indiana started doing with its PDMP a couple of years ago -- and that a lot of other states want to do. The Hoosier State made it possible for prescribers to communicate with other prescribers about patients—so, if prescriber B sees a patient and discovers that Prescriber A has prescribed before, B can contact A and make arrangements for which one of them is going to follow the patient. Notes also can be left behind for other providers, for instance, if an ER doc gets a doctor shopper, he can leave a note about it so others are forewarned.

What about pharmacists? What’s their role? Should they have broader access to patient data?  Beyond being deputized by the DEA, the pharmacy community must be able to play a more appropriate role as a healthcare professional.

Perhaps one of the toughest issues is the role of abuse deterrent formulations (ADF). Beyond the debate over whether the FDA should insist that all generics be abuse deterrent (and the related IP debate), how should PDMPs instruct physicians and pharmacists? And what about formularies? Can we trust physicians to make the right call? Do all patients need abuse deterrent formulation? And, if not, what are the decision criteria? What about dose and duration limitations?

Or should there be state regulations per ADFs at all? Shouldn’t those decisions reside within the FDA? Can you say federal preemption?

This places both education (of the CME variety) and best practices (developed not just by PDMPs but also by physicians, pharmacists, and patient organizations) front and center. What about REMS training? And what about more precise criteria for what a “pain specialist” or a “pain clinic” even mean? As the saying goes, “if you can’t measure it, then it doesn’t count.”

What about take-back programs? Should they only be limited to opioids? And who should pay for them?

Lastly, amercement. On a state-by-state level, does the punishment fit the crime? Should there be national standards on criminal and civil penalties?

Many tough questions – but they deserve thoughtful and timely answers. It’s time for a focused national dialogue that recognizes the need for effective oversight through the use of Big Data and broader constituent alliances.

The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.

-- John Kenneth Galbraith


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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