"In the midst of national concern over illicit drug use and abuse, prescription drug abuse has been described by the Centers for Disease Control as an epidemic in the United States. Nearly all prescription drugs involved in overdoses are originally prescribed by a physician (rather than, for example, being stolen from pharmacies). Thus, attention has been directed toward preventing the diversion of prescription drugs after the prescriptions are dispensed. Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) maintain statewide electronic databases of prescriptions dispensed for controlled substances (i.e., prescription drugs of abuse that are subject to stricter government regulation). Information collected by PDMPs may be used to support access to and legitimate medical use of controlled substances; identify or prevent drug abuse and diversion; facilitate the identification of prescription drug-addicted individuals and enable intervention and treatment; outline drug use and abuse trends to inform public health initiatives; or educate individuals about prescription drug use, abuse, and diversion as well as about PDMPs. How PDMPs are organized and operated varies among states. Each state determines which agency houses the PDMP; which controlled substances must be reported; which types of dispensers are required to submit data (e.g., pharmacies); how often data are collected; who may access information in the PDMP database (e.g., prescribers, dispensers, or law enforcement); the circumstances under which the information may (or must) be accessed; and what enforcement mechanisms are in place for noncompliance."
CRS Report for Congress, R42593