AG Grewal

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NEWARK - Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, the Division of Consumer Affairs, and the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (NJ CARES) commemorated “International Overdose Awareness Day” by announcing $1.2 million in funding to integrate the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program (NJPMP) with electronic health records (EHRs) and pharmacy management systems (PMS) across the state. 

According to a release, with this capability, New Jersey’s health care professionals can more easily identify residents vulnerable to opioid addiction and take action before they become at risk of overdose.

These federal Medicaid funds, which were obtained in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Human Services, will pay for a software integration service that enables doctors and pharmacists​ to instantly access a patient’s opioid prescription history at the moment they provide services.

With this integration, almost all of New Jersey’s prescribers and pharmacists will for the first time have automatic, streamlined access to information on patients’ use of controlled dangerous substances (“CDS”), including opioids. The integration will also provide practitioners with visual enhancements – including patient risk alerts – to ensure that patients are not being overprescribed opioid pain medications that can lead to addiction, overdose, and death. 

“Today, as we remember those who tragically lost their battle with addiction, we are providing hospitals, pharmacies, and other health care providers statewide with enhanced access to a powerful tool to prevent drug addictions from the outset, and intervene before a fatal overdose occurs,” stated Attorney General Grewal. “We share the pain of those grieving the loss of friends and loved ones today, and we will continue working with our partners across New Jersey to provide programs and services like this one that help save lives and bring us closer to ending this devastating epidemic.”

 The NJPMP, operated within the Division of Consumer Affairs, is an electronic database that collects information from pharmacies on the dispensing of CDS like opioids, as well as some other products, to individual patients. It creates a record for the patient so that health care providers can understand a patient’s full prescription drug history. The tool aims to improve prescribing practices, target treatment to at-risk patients, and mitigate the risk of potential abuse or fraud by patients who obtain prescriptions from multiple providers.

“The steps we’re taking today will make it easier and faster for prescribers and pharmacists to identify patients who could be at risk,” stated Paul R. Rodríguez, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Integrating the NJPMP into the daily workflow of these front-line professionals gives them critical opportunities to intervene if there are signs of substance abuse or misuse that can lead to addiction or fatal overdoses.”

New Jersey law requires prescribers and pharmacists to review a patient’s prescription history on certain occasions prior to prescribing or dispensing CDS. The integration will eliminate the need for prescribers and pharmacists to navigate to the NJPMP website, log in, and enter their patient’s information. Instead, their electronic health records and pharmacy management systems will automatically initiate a patient query, which will return the patient’s controlled substance prescription records directly within the clinical workflow.

In addition to providing patient prescription records, the NJPMP, through its “NarxCare” platform provides “clinical alerts” that let practitioners know immediately when a patient’s safety may be at risk, such as when a patient is obtaining or filling CDS prescriptions from multiple prescribers and pharmacies, receiving daily morphine equivalent levels that exceed limits recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), being prescribed opioid and benzodiazepine medications simultaneously, or has been receiving opioid medications for more than 90 consecutive days.

For busy providers seeing numerous patients a day, the integration prevents unnecessary interruptions and lost time.

 “Our goal is for NJPMP checks to become a routine component of health care, like checking a patient’s weight and blood pressure, that providers rely on when making plan of care decisions,” stated Sharon M. Joyce, director of NJ CARES. “By providing for the integration of the NJPMPM database electronic health records and pharmacy management systems statewide, we have taken an important step toward that goal.”

Currently, 175 healthcare entities statewide, including chain pharmacies, independent pharmacies, health systems, independent hospitals, group practices, and independent practices have integrated their systems with the NJPMP. By covering the licensing fees associated with integration, the NJPMP expects to successfully integrate 90% of healthcare entities statewide by the end of the first year.

The NJPMP is a vital component in New Jersey’s fight to end the opioid addiction crisis that claimed more than 3,000 lives last year. Recent upgrades and enhancements to the program, funded by the Murphy administration, have further expanded the NJPMP’s addiction-fighting capabilities.

Those enhancements include the addition of the NarxCare platform earlier this year. Other enhancements include a reporting field that allows pharmacists to record information about individuals picking up prescriptions and report suspicious behaviors that may indicate prescription drug diversion, and the expansion of NJPMP access to include certain mental health practitioners providing treatment for substance abuse to patients at residential or outpatient substance abuse treatment centers licensed by the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

The NJPMP now contains records of more than 111 million prescriptions dispensed in New Jersey. Each record in the database contains over one hundred unique data elements including, but not limited to, the names and addresses of the patient, prescriber, and pharmacy; drug dispensing date; type, days’ supply, and quantity of medication; and method of payment.

New Jersey law requires prescribers to perform a patient query via the NJPMP the first time they prescribe a Schedule II CDS or any opioid for acute or chronic pain; the first time they prescribe a benzodiazepine, and, on a quarterly basis, during the period of time the patient continues to receive the aforementioned prescription medications. Prescribers and pharmacists must also perform a patient query via the NJPMP any time they believe that a patient may be seeking CDS for any purpose other than the treatment of an existing medical condition.

Seventeen states/territories – Connecticut, Delaware, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Vermont, North Carolina, Washington D.C., and Maryland – share data with the NJPMP, providing New Jersey practitioners with even greater insight into the prescription histories of their patients.

For more information, visit the Division’s NJPMP website at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/pmp.

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