May 1 (UPI) -- A study by researchers at Cornell University found that when doctors check a patient's drug history, the risk of opioid abuse is reduced.
Currently, state governments have a database to track every opioid prescription like Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet. These databases have been shown to reduce opioid abuse among Medicare recipients when laws require doctors to consult them before writing prescriptions.
However, not all states have laws requiring healthcare providers to check drug databases before writing prescriptions for their patients.
"The main issue is getting providers to change their prescribing behavior," Colleen Carey, assistant professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell, said in a press release. "The majority of opioids that people abuse start in the medical system as a legitimate prescription."
The study showed states that implemented a "must access" database had a decline in the number of Medicare recipients who got more than a seven-month supply in a six-month period, along with a decrease in people who filled a prescription before the previous one had been finished.
The states with the most reduced rates of opioid abuse were also those with the strictest laws, such as New York, which requires doctors to check a patient's opioid history at every visit.
Researchers also found the phenomenon known as "doctor shopping" -- where patients get prescriptions from five or more doctors -- fell by 8 percent in Medicare opioid users. Patients who got prescriptions from five or more pharmacies also fell by more than 15 percent.
Some Medicare patients did, however, evade regulations by traveling to states without regulations to obtain prescriptions, the researchers reported.
The study was published in the National Bureau of Economic Research.