25% Decrease in Oxycodone-Related Deaths: Which State and Why?

Although 49 states have some sort of drug monitoring program, a recently published study marked the first time that their impact has been measured.

Although 49 states have some sort of drug monitoring program, a recently published study marked the first time that their impact has been measured.

The amount of oxycodone-related deaths in Florida has decreased by 25% since the kickoff of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program in 2011. Lead author Chris Delcher, PhD, and his University of Florida Health colleagues assessed whether the drop in mortalities could be credited to more health care providers monitoring prescription pain drugs and other medications via information tracked in the databases.

“Our work fills an urgent need for rigorous evaluation of these programs, so we can see what is working and what could be done better to help save lives and improve patients’ health care,” Delcher, an assistant professor in the department of health outcomes and policy, said in a news release.

Between 2007 and 2010, the number of deaths associated with opioid pain relievers climbed by 118.3% in Florida. However, that number began to decrease when stricter law enforcement and tamper-resistant drug formulas were put into place in 2010. During that year, hundreds of unlawful pain clinics were shut down as well with the help of Florida House Bill 7095.

Nevertheless, the researchers saw a clear decline in oxycodone-related deaths by analyzing the cause of casualties from January 2003 to December 2012, using information provided by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. Publishing their results in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, they matched those figures with the number of health care providers who used to the program that consisted of patient prescription-filling information.

“Previous studies have lacked the ability to examine differences in oxycodone-related deaths over smaller periods of time, which can obscure the effects of some prescription drug monitoring programs,” one of the authors Bruce A. Goldberg, PhD, said.

The researchers credited the mortality decrease to Florida’s monitoring program, one that surpassed Kentucky’s “model” program just 4 months after its introduction.

“While there is still much work to be done, we were able to tease out precise differences that showed us that Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is having a sizable effect on the number of oxycodone deaths,” Goldberg said. “This is a crucial first step in preventing overdose deaths and in establishing best practices for programs like these across the nation.”