Flipping the Script: The Effects of Opioid Prescription Monitoring on Specialty-Specific Provider Behavior


Mandatory access Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (MA-PDMPs) aim to curb the epidemic at a common point of initiation of use, the prescription. However, there is recent concern about whether opioid policies have been too restrictive and reduced appropriate access to patients with the most need for opioid pharmaceuticals. We assess MA-PDMP’s effect on specialty-specific opioid prescribing behavior of Medicare providers. Our findings suggest that requiring providers to query a PDMP differentially affects opioid prescribing across provider specialties. We find a three to four percent decrease in prescribing for Primary Care and Internal Medicine providers. This result is driven by healthcare providers at the lower end of the prescribing distribution. There is also suggestive evidence of an increase in opioid use disorder treatment drugs prescribed by these same providers. We also find no evidence for the hypothesis that MA-PDMPs restrict prescribing by providers who treat patients with potentially high levels of pain, few drug substitutes, or urgency for pain treatment (e.g., Oncology/Palliative care). This result is not dependent on whether a state provides exemptions for these providers. Our results indicate that MA-PDMPs may help close provider-patient informational gaps while retaining a provider’s ability to supply these drugs to patients with a need for opioids.

The full study is available in Health Economics.