Health Services Research & Development

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HSR&D Research Contributes to VA and CMS Drug Safety and Monitoring Agreement

May 1, 2019


While opioids prescribed within VA have decreased by 25% from their peak in 2013, Veterans continue to receive opioids from non-VA providers. VA and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced an agreement that greatly strengthens drug safety monitoring of prescriptions, including opioids. Effective March 21, 2019, the agreement gives VA the ability to monitor medical prescriptions issued outside VA through Medicare Part D. “VA is committed to patient safety, and our robust medication surveillance systems are part of that commitment,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “This agreement greatly enhances medication safety for Veterans by providing better oversight of drugs that Veterans may be able to obtain from both agencies.”

HSR&D research conducted by Walid Gellad, MD, MPH, part of HSR&D’s Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP), evaluated VA physicians’ perspectives and experiences regarding the use of State-based Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) to monitor Veterans’ receipt of opioids from non-VA prescribers. From February through August 2016, investigators conducted telephone interviews with 42 VA primary care physicians that addressed the following topics regarding PDMPs: overall experiences, barriers to optimal use, and facilitators to improve use. Published in JGIM (Radomski et al., 2018), findings show that VA primary care physicians broadly embraced PDMPs as a tool to monitor Veterans’ receipt of opioids from non-VA sources despite identifying multiple barriers to optimal use. They also identified several key best practices currently used within VA and made suggestions for future improvements that may enhance efforts to ensure safe opioid prescribing.