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Saturday, March 2, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

The VA Now May Report Prescription Drug Use

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Department of Veterans Affairs has authorized the sharing of patient information with state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP).

The PDMP is an electronic, statewide database that collects designated data on substances dispensed statewide, according to the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws (NAMSDL). The system was made law beginning in 2003 through legislation passed at the state level, according to NAMSDL. Currently, 36 states have PDMP databases, the rest of the states are in the process of approving it.

The rule extends the VA's authority to participate in PDMPs, which it says curbs addiction, suicide and emergency room visits, specifically, by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

"As increasing numbers of veterans return from active duty with complex, catastrophic injuries for which pain must be controlled in part by the use of controlled substance medications, VA clinicians require the most complete patient information available," the VA said. "The misuse of prescription medication has reached epidemic levels nationwide, and the veteran population is at a heightened risk for negative health outcomes associated with the improper use of controlled substances. Veterans are subject to unique risk factors involving the misuse of prescribed controlled substances."

More than 1 million emergency department visits across the country were attributed to non-medical use of pharmaceuticals in 2009, double 2004 numbers, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that in 2009 alone, over 37,000 Americans died from drug overdose with 15,500 deaths linked to opioid use.

"Pain-relief medications, including controlled substances, are the most frequent from of medication used in suicide attempts," the VA reports. "State PDMPs are effective in detecting and preventing prescription medication misuse."

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