Overdose deaths linked to oxycodone have dropped by 25 percent in Florida since the state implemented a prescription drug monitoring program in 2011, according to new research results published by the University of Florida.
Florida has been one of the states hit hardest by the ongoing prescription drug epidemic. Between 2007 and 2010, overdose deaths caused by the pain-relieving drug oxycodone increased by 118.3 percent in Florida.
Research Is Needed to Prove Programs Work
Similar monitoring programs are now in place in all 50 U.S. states as well as Washington D.C. However, nationwide implementation of these programs has occurred so quickly that research confirming their efficacy and establishing best practices has struggled to keep up. According to lead author Chris Delcher, Ph.D., the University of Florida study is the first to demonstrate that such a program is having a significant impact on oxycodone-related deaths.
Florida Introduced Several Drug Control Measures
The monitoring program is not the only measure that has contributed to the reduction in Florida overdose deaths. Oxycodone-related overdose deaths actually began to decline in 2010, one year prior to the implementation of the monitoring program. One major factor was the introduction of tamper-resistant oxycodone pills, which make it much more difficult to grind or dissolve the pills into a form that can be snorted or injected. In addition, the state passed Florida House Bill 7095 in 2010, which closed hundreds of rogue pain clinics. Finally, Florida law enforcement began to crack down on the state’s notorious “pill mills” and to prosecute doctors who prescribed oxycodone irresponsibly.
However, the University of Florida researchers attribute 25 percent of the overall reduction in oxycodone-related deaths to the introduction of the monitoring program, which allows for real-time tracking of prescription drug trends as well as individual patients’ prescription histories. Doctors can request a summary of a patient’s drug history in order to prevent him or her from seeking prescriptions from multiple doctors, or to detect when his or her prescription history suggests dependence or addiction.
Florida Healthcare Providers Get On Board
One of the factors contributing to the success of the prescription drug monitoring program in Florida appeared to be how quickly Florida healthcare providers began to use the new system. The rate of doctors in the state who requested summaries of patients’ controlled drug histories surpassed that of Kentucky, one of the first drug monitoring programs in the U.S., in just four months.
The impact of various the prescription drug control measures in Florida has been significant. Manufacturers shipped over 650 million oxycodone pills to Florida in 2010, and by 2013 the number had dropped to 313 million. The number of pain clinics in the state has dropped by more than half since 2011. And oxycodone is no longer the most lethal overdose drug in Florida, having fallen to fourth behind benzodiazepines, cocaine and alcohol.
The results of this study were published in March of 2015 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.