06/14/2016

Four percent of Florida prescribers account for the majority of opioids on the market, according to a study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The study, conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Public Health Law Research program, finds that these Florida high-risk prescribers accounted for 67 percent of the opioid volume and 40 percent of the total opioid prescriptions dispensed in the state between July 2010 and June 2011.

Florida implemented a prescription monitoring program (PDMP) and “pill mill” law in mid-June 2011 to reduce opioid-related injuries and deaths. This new study, which also evaluates the impact of these laws, finds that after their implementation, overall total volume of opioids and number of prescriptions decreased, and Florida’s high-risk prescribers experienced large relative reductions in the number of prescriptions and the volume of opioids they prescribed.

“While it’s a success that the volume of opioids has decreased, prescribing remained high among the same group of prescribers who were originally the high-risk prescribers. This suggests that more attention should be given to address their prescribing habits,” said Hsien-Yen Chang, PhD, assistant scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and lead author of the study.

The study authors suggest that policy-makers continue to focus resources on addressing the prescribers who are contributing more significantly to the volume of opioids on the market, but caution that is not a silver bullet:

“When taken as a whole, even those prescribers who are not prescribing as frequently or at such a high volume still account for a lot of opioids on the market,” said Chang. “It would be wise to consider allocating resources to address prescribing practices at all levels.”

The paper, “Impact of prescription drug monitoring programs and pill mill laws on high-risk opioid prescribers: A comparative interrupted time series analysis examined the prescribing behavior of nearly 40,000 prescribers across Florida between July 2010 and September 2012, and compared to nearly 20,000 prescribers in Georgia.

This study expands on the findings of an earlier study, contributing further to our understanding of the impact of pill mill and prescription monitoring program laws.