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OxyContin Maker to Bankroll Virginia’s Prescription Monitoring System Upgrade


With words like “crisis” and “epidemic” increasingly murmured after “opioid,” the maker of the famous, and perhaps notorious, opioid joins the effort to curb abuse.

With words like “crisis” and “epidemic” increasingly murmured after “opioid,” the maker of one of the most famous, and perhaps notorious, prescription opioids seems to be entering into efforts to curb the drug’s abuse.

Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of Oxycontin, has announced that it will fund an upgrade of Virginia’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) that will integrate prescribing information into patients’ electronic health records (EHRs). The collaboration with the Virginia Department of Health comes about 2 months after Governor Terry McAuliffe declared the state’s opioid addiction crisis a public health emergency.

Virginia currently has a state-run electronic database to track the prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances, such as opioids, but clinicians must visit a separate website to access it before prescribing or dispensing a controlled substance. However, incorporating the PDMP within each patient’s EHR would alleviate burden by “integrating the PDMP query into the existing workflow,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.

The idea of joining the PDMP and EHR systems has been the subject of ongoing efforts by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. In 2012, it led pilot studies in 6 states that had their PDMPs more fully automated and integrated into existing health information technology tools. According to a report on the pilot results, 98% to 100% of prescribers and dispensers in the study reported that data were made easier to access when the process was made automatic within the workflow.

The new platform, NarxCare, will offer more than just EHR integration. According to its website, it creates a real-time, interactive display to help providers spot prescribing patterns. Each patient report includes an odds ratio of unintentional overdose and risk scores by type of drug. It also alerts clinicians of any “red flags” in the last 2 years of the patient’s prescription history that could indicate doctor shopping or medication diversion.

In the governor’s press release, David Brown, director of Virginia’s Department of Health Professions, said that the PDMP upgrade would “allow health providers and pharmacists to more effectively flag at-risk patients and curb prescription drug abuse as we fight against our commonwealth’s opioid abuse epidemic.”

The initiative will be funded by a $3.1 million grant from Purdue Pharma, which has faced scrutiny for its role in the nationwide opioid epidemic as the manufacturer of OxyContin. Last year, the company settled a lawsuit with Kentucky for $24 million over its marketing of the prescription painkiller. It has since attempted to rehabilitate its image by funding programs that help encourage responsible opioid use.

“Purdue Pharma has a long history of supporting and funding public health initiatives like the use of [PDMPs] to help reduce the misuse and abuse of opioids,” said Mark Timney, president and chief executive officer, in a press release announcing the partnership with Virginia.

The goal of the upgrade is to improve performance, access, and usability of the PDMP system for the 18,000 prescribers and 400 pharmacies in Virginia by the end of 2017.

A version of this story originally appears in the American Journal of Managed Care.

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