Military personnel and their families can often be at a high risk for substance use disorder (SUD). In fact, those who have been deployed to recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown significantly higher rates of SUD diagnoses than civilian populations. Research conducted by the Butler Institute found in 2013, 44 percent of those returning from deployment had challenges with the transition, including the onset of problematic substance use behaviors. In addition, their research found that in 2009, military physicians wrote almost 3.8 million prescriptions for pain medicine, four times more than the number written in 2001. Thus, prescription drug misuse and opioid use disorders have become a growing concern in the military.
Data and information sharing can be useful means in combating this problem. Too frequently, prescribers are not aware of previous times a patient has seen a provider, or what treatments they are already undergoing. Therefore, the Defense Health Agency (DHA) tasked Express Scripts, who partnered with Appriss Health, to create a new Military Health System (MHS) prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) so prescription Military Treatment Facilities and non-Military healthcare providers can exchange data and information to reduce potential abuse and improve patient safety.
Now, community-based prescribers at clinics, hospitals and local pharmacies are able to see if a patient was recently prescribed certain medications such as opioids, anabolic steroids, sleep or ADHD medication. Having a complete picture of a patient’s health gives pharmacists and providers the power to make better informed decisions and to further provide additional care if needed. This could include moving forward with prescribing a drug or referring them to a specialist or addiction treatment facility.
Currently, the new MHS PDMP is sharing data and analytics on dispensed controlled substance prescriptions with 29 PDMPs across the U.S. and territories with the ultimate goal of allowing data sharing with all 49 PDMPs connected across the country via PMP InterConnect. This kind of information sharing could go a long way in helping to better control the opioid epidemic and helping treat military personnel and their family members who suffer from SUD across the country.