Robust Prescription Monitoring Programs and Abrupt Discontinuation of Long-term Opioid Use


      This study assesses the associations between the recent implementation of robust features of state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs and the abrupt discontinuation of long-term opioid therapies.


      Data were from a national commercial insurance database and included privately insured adults aged 18–64 years and Medicare Advantage enrollees aged ≥65 years who initiated a long-term opioid therapy episode between Quarter 2 of 2011 and Quarter 2 of 2017. State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs were characterized as nonrobust, robust, and strongly robust. Abrupt discontinuation was measured on the basis of high daily morphine milligram equivalents over the last 30 days of a long-term opioid therapy episode or no sign of tapering before discontinuation. Difference-in-differences models were estimated in 2019‒2020 to assess the association between robust Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs and abrupt discontinuation.


      Among nonelderly privately insured adults, robust Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs were associated with an increase from 14.8% to 15.4% (4% relative increase, p=0.02) in the rate of ending long-term opioid therapy with ≥60 daily morphine milligram equivalents. For older Medicare Advantage enrollees, strongly robust Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs were associated with a reduction from 4.8% to 4.3% (10.4%, p=0.01) and from 3.0% to 2.4% (17.3%, p=0.001) in the rate of ending long-term opioid therapy with ≥90 and 120 daily morphine milligram equivalents, respectively. Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs robustness was not associated with clinically meaningful changes in the rate of discontinuing long-term opioid therapy without tapering.


      Discontinuation without tapering was the norm for long-term opioid therapies in the samples throughout the study years. Findings do not support the notion that policies aimed at enhancing Prescription Drug Monitoring Program use were associated with substantial increases in abrupt long-term opioid therapy discontinuation.
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