Utilization of prescription drug monitoring programs for prescribing and dispensing decisions: Results from a multi-site qualitative study

Res Social Adm Pharm. 2019 Jun;15(6):754-760. doi: 10.1016/j.sapharm.2018.09.007. Epub 2018 Sep 14.


Background: Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) track the dispensing of prescription-controlled substances with the goal of mitigating misuse and diversion. Authorized users query the PDMP for controlled substance prescription histories at the point of care. Despite widespread implementation of PDMPs, there is much not known about how PDMPs influence prescribing and dispensing decisions.

Objectives: The objective of this study was to investigate how primary care providers (PCPs) and pharmacists utilize PDMPs when making prescribing and dispensing decisions.

Methods: Data from in-depth, qualitative interviews with PCPs (n = 48) and community pharmacists (n = 60) across four states- Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, and Washington were analyzed for themes around PDMP use.

Results: Both PCPs and pharmacists reported that PDMPs are key tools for aiding prescribing and dispensing decisions. PCPs reported variable use of PDMPs with most querying the PDMP when there are "red flags" and fewer reporting having clinic policies that direct PDMP use. Primary care providers in Kentucky reported more consistent and routine use of the PDMP as a result of a state law that mandates query prior to the initial prescribing of Schedule II controlled substances. Community pharmacists practicing in chain pharmacies reported formal policies requiring PDMP query prior to dispensing opioids, while utilization of PDMPs by pharmacists practicing in independently-owned pharmacies was more variable. Pharmacists and PCPs reported barriers to PDMP use, such as having to "log in on a separate machine" and perceived that PDMP utility could be improved by integrating it within pharmacy dispensing systems and electronic health records.

Conclusions: Pharmacists and PCPs reported the importance of PDMP information to aid their prescribing and dispensing decisions. Efforts to enhance state PDMP programs should consider processes that seamlessly integrate all available controlled substance prescription history for a given patient at the point of care so that PDMP utility for prescribing and dispensing decisions is maximized.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Decision Making
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Male
  • Pharmacists / organization & administration*
  • Physicians, Primary Care / organization & administration*
  • Prescription Drug Misuse / prevention & control
  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs*
  • Qualitative Research
  • United States