Health Outcomes and Policy Professors Collaborate on Creation of Annual Report for the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

Three University of Florida faculty members collaborated with the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) in the creation of its 2013-2014 Annual Report. Chris Delcher, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Health Outcomes and Policy, worked with Mildred Maldonado-Molina, Ph.D., associate professor, in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy and Bruce A. Goldberger, PhD., DABFT, professor and director of toxicology in the Department of Pathology on this year’s report, which is distributed to Florida’s surgeon general, the speaker of the house and state legislators. The report outlines new developments and trends in the program’s efforts to reduce the abuse and misuse of prescription drugs, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

“Our role for the report was to enhance analysis, by specifically looking at new trends and placing emphasis on presenting the information in the context of public health,” explained Delcher, who will continue his collaboration with the PDMP as part of an 18-month Bureau of Justice grant. “These new emphases will allow policymakers to see how prescribing trends shift over time as well as gain insight into the location of problem areas in Florida.”

The PDMP administers the E-FORCSE® Prescription Drug Monitoring System, which tracks individuals’ controlled substance prescriptions and was signed into law in 2009, during a time that is commonly referred to as Florida’s prescription drug epidemic. In 2009, one in eight deaths in Florida was attributable to a prescription drug overdose and in 2010, the number of deaths in Florida from prescription drug overdose was more than heroin and cocaine combined. Nationally, the total cost of prescription opioid abuse was estimated to be $55.7 billion in 2007.

However, according to the report, there has been an 8.3 percent decrease in the number of deaths caused by one or more controlled substance prescriptions in Florida as well as a 53 percent reduction in the number of patients engaged in ‘doctor shopping.’ Research suggests that patients who receive more than 100 mgs of morphine equivalents are nine times more likely to overdose, with 12 percent of these overdoses resulting in deaths. Between October 2011 and December 2013, there has been a 20.1 percent reduction in the average morphine milligram equivalents per patient.

In addition, more than 90 percent of pharmacies in Florida were uploading information into the system in a timely fashion and the number of requests for information from the database increased by 64 percent. The report also noted a developing trend: since March 2014, there has been a 77 percent increase in the number of prescriptions for Zohydro (hydrocodone bitartrate) Extended Release (ER), which is narcotic made for the management of pain severe enough to require daily, around-the-clock, long-term treatment and for which alternative treatment options are inadequate.

“The data presented in the Annual Report demonstrates that the PDMP is a tool in serving the public health interests of the state of Florida,” said Delcher. “It is my hope that policymakers recognize the importance of this program and its role in understanding prescription drug use in Florida.”