Prescription drug monitoring programs and death rates from drug overdose

Pain Med. 2011 May;12(5):747-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2011.01062.x. Epub 2011 Feb 18.


Objective: Drug overdoses resulting from the abuse of prescription opioid analgesics and other controlled substances have increased in number as the volume of such drugs prescribed in the United States has grown. State prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) are designed to prevent the abuse of such drugs. This study quantifies the relation of PDMPs to rates of death from drug overdose and quantities of opioid drugs distributed at the state level.

Design: Observational study of the United States during 1999-2005.

Outcome measures: Rates of drug overdose mortality, opioid overdose mortality, and opioid consumption by state.

Results: PDMPs were not significantly associated with lower rates of drug overdose or opioid overdose mortality or lower rates of consumption of opioid drugs. PDMP states consumed significantly greater amounts of hydrocodone (Schedule III) and nonsignificantly lower amounts of Schedule II opioids. The increases in overdose mortality rates and use of prescription opioid drugs during 1999-2005 were significantly lower in three PDMP states (California, New York, and Texas) that required use of special prescription forms.

Conclusions: While PDMPs are potentially an important tool to prevent the nonmedical use of prescribed controlled substances, their impact is not reflected in drug overdose mortality rates. Their effect on overall consumption of opioids appears to be minimal. PDMP managers need to develop and test ways to improve the use of their data to affect the problem of prescription drug overdoses.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / poisoning*
  • Drug Monitoring / methods*
  • Drug Overdose / mortality*
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Humans
  • Prescription Drugs / poisoning*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / mortality
  • United States


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Prescription Drugs