The Effect of State Policies on Rates of High-Risk Prescribing of an Initial Opioid Analgesic


Multiple state policies, such as prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) and duration limits, have been implemented to decrease high-risk opioid prescribing. Studies demonstrate that many policies decrease certain opioid prescribing behaviors, but few examine their intended effects on the targeted high-risk prescribing practices, nor disentangle the effects of concurrent state or federal policies likely to influence those practices.


Forty-one million initial prescriptions for new opioid episodes from 2007 to 2018 were identified using national pharmacy claims. We identified high-risk initial prescriptions, defined as >7 days’ supply, average daily MME >90, or concurrent with benzodiazepines and estimated three multivariable logistic regression models to assess the association between policies and outcomes controlling for patient, prescriber, and county characteristics.


Initial prescriptions for >7 days declined from 23.8% in 2007 to 14.9% in 2018, associated with mandatory and interoperable PDMPs and prescription duration limits but not other policies examined. Initial prescriptions with daily MME > 90 declined from 13.2% to 1.9%, associated with pain management clinic laws but not consistently with other policies. Initial prescriptions concurrent with benzodiazepines declined only modestly from 6.9% to 6.5%, associated with pain management clinic laws but not other policies examined.


The opioid policy environment has changed rapidly with a range of different policies being implemented addressing high-risk prescribing. PDMP laws mandating prescriber use and pain clinic laws both appear efficacious but decrease different types of high-risk opioid prescribing. New policies should be considered in light of the prevalence of the problem being addressed.

The full study is available in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.