Association Between Statewide Opioid Prescribing Interventions and Opioid Prescribing Patterns in North Carolina, 2006-2018

Pain Med. 2021 Dec 11;22(12):2931-2940. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnab181.


Objective: To examine the impact of three sequential statewide policy and legislative interventions on opioid prescribing practices among privately insured individuals in North Carolina.

Methods: An interrupted time series approach was used to examine level and trajectory changes of new and prevalent opioid prescription rates, days' supply, and daily morphine milligram equivalents before and after implementation of a 1) prescription drug monitoring program, 2) state medical board initiative, and 3) legislative action. Analyses were conducted using individual-level claims data from a large private health insurance provider serving North Carolina residents, ages 18-64 years, from January 2006 to August 2018.

Results: Rates of new and prevalent prescription opioid patients were relatively unaffected by the prescription monitoring program but sharply declined in the months immediately following both medical board (-3.7 new and -19.3 prevalent patients per 10,000 person months) and legislative (-14.1 new and -26.7 prevalent patients) actions. Among all opioid prescriptions, days' supply steadily increased on average over the study period but declined after legislative action (-1.5 days' supply per year).

Conclusions: The voluntary prescription drug monitoring program launched in 2010 only marginally affected opioid prescribing patterns on its own, but its redeployment as an investigative and clinical tool in multifaceted public policy approaches by the state medical board and legislature later in the decade plausibly contributed to notable declines in prescription rates and days' supply. This study lends new emphasis to the importance of enforcement mechanisms for state and national policies seeking to reverse this critical public health crisis.

Keywords: Drug Abuse; Opioids; PMP; Pain; Prescription Monitoring Program; Prescriptions.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid* / therapeutic use
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs*
  • Prescriptions
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Opioid