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The Problem of Data Quality in Analyses of Opioid Regulation: The Case of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs


  • Jill Horwitz
  • Corey S. Davis
  • Lynn S. McClelland
  • Rebecca S. Fordon
  • Ellen Meara


States, which have the primary legal role in regulating the prescribing and dispensing of prescription medications, have created Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP) to try to reduce inappropriate prescribing, dispensing, and related harm. Research assessing whether these interventions are effective has produced inconclusive and contradictory results. Here we examine whether different data sources may have contributed to the varying results. Specifically, we: 1) identify the decisions inherent in creating such a dataset; 2) discuss the public data sources used by researchers in previous work; 3) develop and apply a detailed research protocol to create a novel PDMP law dataset; and 4) to illustrate potential consequences of data choice, apply various data sources to analyze the relationship between PDMP laws and prescribing and dispensing of opioids among disabled Medicare beneficiaries. We find that our dates differ from those in existing datasets, sometimes by many years. The regression analyses generated a twofold difference in point estimates, as well as different signed estimates, depending on the data used. We conclude that the lack of transparency about data assembly in existing datasets, differences among dates by source, and the regression results raise concerns for PDMP researchers and policymakers.

Suggested Citation

  • Jill Horwitz & Corey S. Davis & Lynn S. McClelland & Rebecca S. Fordon & Ellen Meara, 2018. "The Problem of Data Quality in Analyses of Opioid Regulation: The Case of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs," NBER Working Papers 24947, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24947
    Note: HC LE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rebecca M. Blank, 2002. "Evaluating Welfare Reform in the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1105-1166, December.
    2. Thomas C. Buchmueller & Colleen Carey, 2018. "The Effect of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs on Opioid Utilization in Medicare," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 77-112, February.
    3. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2014.301923_8 is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • K32 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Energy, Environmental, Health, and Safety Law
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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