A kind doctor

Tracking progress on our home state’s efforts to modernize our PDMP

On October 27, 2014, Pennsylvania passed a law that modernizes our prescription drug monitoring program and undoubtedly save lives. However, implementation will be even more complex than the lengthy legislative process we’ve already seen. We’ll continue to share information about our PDMP as the program gets off the ground.

Look for further blog posts about the role of prescription monitoring as part of a public health effort to reduce overdose, address risky substance use and addiction, and most importantly, to improve the quality of care that all patients receive.

Recent news

Christie hails 5 more states joining effort to track drug prescriptions June 8, 2017

Five more states, including Pennsylvania, have joined New Jersey’s interstate drug prescription monitoring program. The states being added to the network are Pennsylvania, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and West Virginia. They join seven other states already in the program, including New York, Connecticut, Delaware, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia and Minnesota.

New Pa. prescription monitoring program has cut doctor-shopping for opioids, officials say May 14, 2017

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, as the result of the state PDMP: a) the number of people who have shopped for 10 or more doctors or pharmacists in a three-month period for Class II drugs (such as oxycodone) has been reduced by 94 percent and b) patients getting prescribed a morphine equivalent of more than 100 mg per day decreased by 11 percent since the registry started. However, it is not known how many people have begun to use illicit opioids (like heroin) as the result of the system. 

Officials Say PA’s Drug Monitoring Program Making an Impact in First 4 Months December 20, 2016

Although we are not yet able to track a reduction in opioid prescriptions (or opioid related harms) because of the PDMP, we do know that 64,000 doctors and pharmacists have signed up to use the database. In 2017, look for two notable improvements to the system: a) data sharing with other states (this is an important development) and b) the state enforcing mandatory participation from prescribers and dispensers who have not yet signed up. 

Implementing prescription drug monitoring programs November 10, 2016

This opinion piece by a Philadelphia-area physician’s assistant explains how our new PDMP has been helpful in her medical practice. An excerpt:

“Overall, I think that the launch of the database is very beneficial as it aids the fight against narcotic abuse. Patients are generally accepting of the information when we present them with their prescription history, and this is something I was pleasantly surprised with. The fact that we are required to search for patients can become time consuming and is not very beneficial when patients present with injuries that warrant narcotic medication. However, if this is what is required in order to have the ability to research all patients, then I will happily do it. While the state-wide database is very useful, I fear it is not the most accurate representation of a patient’s prescription history. A national database would be most beneficial and I hope we develop one in the near future.”

Prescription Drug Monitoring Program: Information for Prescribers October 2016

Information about registration and training from the Pennsylvania Dept. of Health

After much delay, Pennsylvania to launch prescription drug-monitoring database August 22, 2016

Pennsylvania’s PDMP go live on Thursday, August 25. Under state law, clinicians will be required to look up a patient in the database when prescribing a controlled substance to that person for the first time, or “when there is clinical concern the patient may be suffering from the disease of addiction or diverting a controlled substance.”

New study: Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs Are Associated With Sustained Reductions In Opioid Prescribing By Physicians June 2016

A study published in Health Affairs reports that the implementation of a PDMP was associated with a 30 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions in 24 U.S. states. This reduction was immediate and sustained after three years.

Prescription database in Pa. should help prevent addiction, family doctor says May 27, 2016

Pennsylvania’s monitoring program is scheduled to be up by Labor Day. State health officials have yet to announce specific guidelines for Pennsylvania’s database, including whether physicians will be required to check before writing prescriptions for opioids or other medications.

Director appointed to oversee Pa. drug monitoring initiative March 15, 2016

Meghna Patel began as the Director of the Pennsylvania PDMP today, March 15, 2016.

New drug monitoring program should start in August March 9, 2016

Health Secretary Karen Murphy said staff will soon be hired to oversee the system and that the whole PDMP should be up and running this August

Tracking the Tracker: The Long Road for Pennsylvania’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program March 1, 2016

Now that a vendor has been identified, Pennsylvania medical groups express optimism that the monitoring program will help reduce drug-related harms

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Announces Selection of ABC-Map Program Vendor February 16, 2016

Pennsylvania has selected a company called Appriss to oversee the development of our state’s prescription monitoring program. Appriss currently oversees PDMPs in 24 other states.

PA Department of Health Seeks PDMP Director October 2015

The job announcement has been posted 

PA Department of Health Awarded 2015 Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program PDMP Implementation and Enhancement Grant September 28, 2015

This grant will provide the department with $409,949 over a two-year period to support the implementation of the PDMP

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Convenes Second Achieving Better Care by Monitoring the All Prescriptions Program (ABC-MAP) Board Meeting May 20, 2015

At the meeting, the board reviewed operational best practices of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs across the country.

Controlled Substances Database Won’t Meet June 30 Effective Date April 10, 2015 [Article no longer available]

The database will be late, maybe very late. Apparently there are two separate problems. The first is simply the magnitude of the project…The second problem is money, or more accurately, a lack of money to fund the project…Work is under way on a new state budget for the coming fiscal year, and Gov. Wolf has proposed $2.1 million to fund the database. Unfortunately, there are early indications that the new budget may not be in place by the June 30 deadline.

April 8, 2015 Meeting of the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions (ABC-MAP) Board (PowerPoint presentation) April 8, 2015

This PowerPoint from the first meeting of the ABC-MAP Board providers an easy-to-read summary of the ABC-MAP program, its goals, and its progress. 

Wolf promises funding for prescription drug database March 7, 2015

The governor has earmarked $2.1 million for the state’s prescription drug-monitoring program that had been struggling for funds. 

Prescription drug database aimed at curbing drug abuse to launch by June 2015 October 27, 2014

While 48 other states have similar databases to track addictive or dangerous drugs, Pennsylvania had previously only tracked certain drugs through the Attorney General’s office. Now, a board will oversee the program and encourage prescribers to use it routinely to prevent “doctor shopping” and abuse.

Prescription-drug monitoring database signed into law October 27, 2014

Governor Corbett signed the bill into law today!

Prescription drug database advances to Gov. Corbett October 16, 2014

The Senate approved SB 1180 today and will move to Governor Corbett’s desk. The Governor has publicly supported the bill.

Pa. Legislature moves closer to OK on monitoring of prescription drugs October 15, 2014

After months of wrangling over privacy provisions, legislation to create the monitoring program cleared the House of Representatives on Tuesday by a vote of 194-2.The Senate is expected to approve the bill as it passed the House, sending it on to Gov. Tom Corbett, said a spokesman for Senate Republicans, who hold the majority.

With new Pa. drug laws, one academic wary of over-correction October 5, 2014

University of Pennsylvania professor points out that a new PDMP in Pennsylvania could result in opioid users moving to heroin if doctors don’t properly address the underlying substance use disorder. Currently, SB 1180 sits in the House Appropriations Committee.  

In state, data-sharing prescription drug legislation stalls July 29, 2014

The Senate bill sits in committee in the House, where Rep. Matt Baker said it will likely face amendments that would return it to a vote in the Senate. The House bill has been awaiting a Senate committee vote since Oct. 30.

Pennsylvania trying to face its heroin, opioid problem July 23, 2014

Although SB 1180 passed the Senate in May, the House left for the summer without taking it up.  Advocates and lawmakers say lobbying is blocking lifesaving reforms.

Senate passes plan to create prescription drug monitoring system May 6, 2014

SB 1180 has passed the Senate; now we wait to see which version of the bill the House takes up

PA District Attorneys Push For Legislation They Say Will Combat Heroin, Rx Drug Overdoses May 1, 2014

Prosecutors from several counties call for the passage of SB 1180, which could come up for a vote in the Senate as early as next week

Prescription drug registry would help cut deaths from abuse: As I See It April 1, 2014

Op-ed tracing legislative inaction on this issue for years in PA and urging passage of a law this session

Pa. drug abuse bill under review March 29, 2014

“The Senate bill is the one that appears most likely to make it to the governor’s desk…’We did work with the (Corbett) administration to make sure that this was something that they could agree to,’ [SB 1180 co-sponsor] Vance said…The bill must next make it through the Senate Appropriations Committee. A committee vote has not yet been scheduled.”

Changes to Prescription Database Bill Puts House and Senate at Odds March 20, 2014

The Senate Bill, passed March 19 by the Senate Health & Welfare Committee, does not require a police search warrant to access the database, whereas the House version has that requirement

Full text of Amended Senate Bill 1180

Passed by the Senate Health & Welfare Committee on March 19, 2014

Drug overdose deaths spurs legislation March 10, 2014

On March 19, the Pennsylvania Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee plans to consider the proposed Senate Bill 1180 and House Bill 1684, which was passed last October

To combat prescription drug abuse, database tracking is key: David Freed March 7, 2014

District Attorney of Cumberland County speaks in favor of a PDMP and describes a compromise in currently proposed legislation that would require law enforcement to get a warrant before accessing the database

PA dept head addresses Rx drug abuse March 1, 2014

Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Gary Tennis reports that Pennsylvania’s prescription opioid and heroin problems are getting worse and states his support for the prescription drug monitoring bill now in the Senate

Washington DA: Unified effort vital to battle prescription drug, heroin abuse February 14, 2014

Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone said he hopes Pennsylvania enacts a law authorizing a prescription drug monitoring program that would create a statewide database to help doctors and pharmacists identify problem patients. 

Pa. ‘doctor shopping’ bill has new life December 20, 2013 [No longer available online.]

Editorial in support of the passage of legislation to upgrade our PDMP  

Full text of Senate Bill 1180

Senate bill to upgrade our PDMP referred to the Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee on November 18, 2013

STFriday: monitoring Rx drugs & Political Junkie Ken Rudin October 25, 2013

Interview with bill sponsor Rep. Matt Baker (R-Bradford/Tioga) and Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico.  Discusses the bill in its current form, passed this week by the PA House of Representatives, which requires law enforcement to have search warrant to access the database.

Pa. prescription drug database bill heads to senate October 22, 2013

House Roll Call

View the legislators who voted yea and nay on HB 1694, which passed the House on October 21, 2013

Drug monitoring plan tweaked for patient privacy October 20, 2013

Pa.’s proposed law to track more prescription drugs is on fast-track October 20, 2013

Lawmakers assess heroin use in PA October 15, 2013

Pennsylvania ranks high in painkiller overdoses, low in measures to prevent them: new report October 7, 2013

PA doctors: Prescription pill tracker could violate patient confidentiality October 4, 2013

Governor Corbett Unveils Healthy Pennsylvania Plan September 17, 2013

Governor Corbett’s proposed alternative to Medicaid expansions includes an initiative to “enhance the prescription drug monitoring program to help patients receive addiction treatment and reduce the criminal diversion of prescription drugs,” indicating his support for legislation that would update our PDMP in PA.



In October 2013, the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) released Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic, a state-by-state analysis of harms related to prescription drug abuse (including overdose) and the extent to which each state utilizes a set of 10 indicators of known strategies to help curb the epidemic.

The result in Pennsylvania?  Survey says:


Of the 10 indicators, Pennsylvania did receive a point from the TFAH for having an existing Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP).  However, PA did not receive a point for “requiring mandatory utilization by prescribers” within our PDMP.

In fact, although Pennsylvania had one of the first PDMPs in the country (begun in 1972), ours is currently one of the most limited in the nation.  It tracks only Schedule II controlled substances, data is updated monthly, and access is limited to law enforcement officers.

For more information on PDMPs and their use in PA, read our previous post on the subject (published 6/21/13).

And be sure to check back often; we will be publishing updates here on the blog as news and information become available.

Pennsylvanians, policy wonks, anyone with expertise: we welcome your comments and information.