Creating national standards for state-based prescription drug monitoring programs

Creating national standards for state-based prescription drug monitoring programs

Insights from Aptive health expert and doctoral student Aimee Pehrson on her recent journal article


Written by Britany Martinez


Posted 4.28.23

Aptive encourages professional development for employees through participation in research and development, professional association programs and activities, speaking engagements and academic pursuits. Many of our employees expand their knowledge and expertise this way, including Health Solutions Associate Aimee Pehrson.

Aimee supports the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Research Development by providing research and health care administration support, managing grants and funding and assisting with regulatory program requirements. She is also a doctoral student and she recently co-authored an article in the Journal of Public Health Policy about prescription drug monitoring programs and policies in the United States. Here she talks with us about the article, “A prescription drug monitoring program, data sharing, and upholding states’ rights under the United States Constitution,” and the career journey that led her to seek a PhD in public health (estimated completion of December 2025.) 

Read a preview of Aimee's manuscript

What attracted you to a career in public health?

My whole life I thought medical school was my destination, but when I got to college, I had an experience that shifted my career perspective from the individual to the population level. I noticed the high level of smoking taking place outside of the buildings where I had class. The “policy bug” bit me then. I worked with the University of Tennessee to implement a regulation on the distance between smoking areas and the entrance to a building. I remember meeting with a public health professor after that and they suggested studying public health. I saw how that policy affected not just one person’s health, but the health of everyone who walked in and out of those building doors. From there, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in public health.

What motivated you to go on and earn a doctoral degree?

I have a long history of work in clinical and public health research, communicable disease investigation, site-level care and generational health. Throughout my career, I found that administrative health care, married with public health, is where my truest interest lies. The hunger to learn and do more at this intersect led me to pursue a PhD in public health from the University of Tennessee.

Where did your concept for the article come from?

When I was pursuing my second master’s degree (in health care administration), one of the policy classes examined the Constitution’s commerce clause and the 10th amendment (i.e., delineation between federal and state powers); a portion of this manuscript’s concept was derived from this class. When I was conducting other opioid-related research, I found the inconsistency between state-based prescription drug monitoring program policies a tad frustrating, leading to why I wanted to create and publish a viewpoint.

I think a solution can exist that both respects states’ independent power while aligning with standards that allow clinicians to provide, and patients to have, quality health care. Having a minimum set of standards for all states to ensure quality care should be looked into at the national level.

What is the article about?

Right now, each state’s current prescription drug monitoring program differs because they have the right to decide what medications will be monitored, what data will be collected and how the data will be shared. I proposed that a federal prescription drug monitoring program law to make standards consistent across the country would be more likely to decrease morbidity and mortality associated with persistent opioid utilization than the current variety of state laws. The manuscript reviews the power of U.S. Congress over monitoring programs, analyzes data and gaps in the lack of a standard minimal set of variables shared across states and proposes the effectiveness of creating a baseline for monitoring programs across the nation.

There is an opioid epidemic affecting the United States and it is becoming a global public health problem as well. Opioid prescribing practices are a primary contributor to this epidemic and the monitoring programs are one thing that can help avoid the potential misuse of these medications.

When did you start working on your article?
This multi-step process started in the Fall of 2021 and the article was published in January 2023. 

What’s next for you?

Three other articles are in progress: one on the need to develop a social needs index related to orthopedic health outcomes, one on the need to move from a biomedical model to more of a biopsychosocial model for clinical research and the last is on additional ways providers can provide pain control for patients while reducing the rates of opioid misuse and dependency in the postoperative period. I collaborated with some colleagues in submitting an abstract for the American Public Health Association annual meeting on Gender differences in Mental Health Diagnosis and Symptom Improvement Amongst Veterans Utilizing the Veteran Affairs General Mental Health Services as well as submitting two additional abstracts 1) A scoping review on the role of healthcare administration in the opioid epidemic 2) The impact of prenatal opioid education on opioid use in the postpartum period. This summer I will be conducting a research study in Mexico looking at the role social needs play in the risk for Type II Diabetes.