In a letter dispatched to U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie last week, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) called for the department to release reports on State Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) compliance rates to the public.
While Wisconsin’s compliance rate has been made publicly available, Baldwin urged each state’s information to be made easily accessible as a means of increasing oversight and awareness about opioid prescribing undertaken at VA facilities throughout the United States. The PDMP tracks opioid prescribing practices as a means of reducing the risk of opioid overdose for veterans in care.
“I believe increasing awareness of opioid prescription rates as well as how often providers are querying PDMP databases will help continue to improve the way we treat veterans’ pain and decrease reliance on powerful opioids,” Baldwin wrote. “Accordingly, I am requesting that the VA publicly release state-by-state PDMP query compliance reports annually.”
The senator also pointed to a report from the VA’s own Office of Inspector General last year, which found that from April 2017 to March 2018, clinicians failed to check the state PDMP databases for 73 percent of veterans prescribed opioids in the care of the VA, and as such, urged increase use and oversight of the PDMP.
Wisconsin’s figures, given to Baldwin, fell short of a compliance goal of greater than 90 percent, but managed to exceed 70 percent compliance and noted that annual PDMP evaluations were being made available for eligible patients.
“The VA should replicate this reporting process at a national scale, and provide additional information on the extent to which facilities are taking specific steps to achieve compliance rates of over 90 percent,” Baldwin wrote. “The VA and VISN 12, in particular, have made great strides in changing the way we treat veteran’s pain and decreasing reliance on powerful opioids. After passage of the Jason Simcakoski Memorial and Promise Act, which strengthened the VA’s Opioid Safety Initiative, the Tomah VAMC alone saw a 47 percent decrease in the number of veterans on chronic opioids. For veterans on opioids and benzodiazepines, there was a 76 percent reduction. This is tremendous progress, but oversight is needed to ensure that the VA keeps its promise to our veterans and delivers the care that they have earned.”