Protocol: Mixed-methods study to evaluate implementation, enforcement, and outcomes of U.S. state laws intended to curb high-risk opioid prescribing

Emma Beth McGinty, Elizabeth A. Stuart, G. Caleb Alexander, Colleen L Barry, Mark Bicket, Lainie Rutkow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: The U.S. opioid epidemic has been driven by the high volume of opioids prescribed by healthcare providers. U.S. states have recently enacted four types of laws designed to curb high-risk prescribing practices, such as high-dose and long-term opioid prescribing, associated with opioid-related mortality: (1) mandatory Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) enrollment laws, which require prescribers to enroll in their state's PDMP, an electronic database of patients' controlled substance prescriptions, (2) mandatory PDMP query laws, which require prescribers to query the PDMP prior to prescribing an opioid, (3) opioid prescribing cap laws, which limit the dose and/or duration of opioid prescriptions, and (4) pill mill laws, which strictly regulate pain clinics to prevent nonmedical opioid prescribing. Some pain experts have expressed concern that these laws could negatively affect pain management among patients with chronic non-cancer pain. This paper describes the protocol for a mixed-methods study analyzing the independent effects of these four types of laws on opioid prescribing patterns and chronic non-cancer pain treatment, accounting for variation in implementation and enforcement of laws across states. Methods: Many states have enacted multiple opioid prescribing laws at or around the same time. To overcome this issue, our study focuses on 18 treatment states that each enacted a single law of interest, and no other potentially confounding laws, over a 4-year period (2years pre-/post-law). Qualitative interviews with key leaders in each of the 18 treatment states will characterize the timing, scope, and strength of each state law's implementation and enforcement. This information will inform the design and interpretation of synthetic control models analyzing the effects of each of the two types of laws on two sets of outcomes: measures of (1) high-risk opioid prescribing and (2) non-opioid treatments for chronic non-cancer pain. Discussion: Study of mandatory PDMP enrollment, mandatory PDMP query, opioid prescribing cap, and pill mill laws is timely given a dynamic policy environment in which numerous states pass, revise, implement, and enforce varied laws to address opioid prescribing each year. Findings will inform enactment, implementation, and enforcement of these laws in additional states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number37
JournalImplementation Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 26 2018


  • Law
  • Mixed-methods
  • Opioid
  • Synthetic control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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