Professor Rahi Abouk and Rand Corporation Awarded $460,000 Grant from the National Institutes of Health to Research Whether Electronic Prescriptions Reduce Opioid Abuse

Rahi Abouk

William Paterson University health economics professor Rahi Abouk, director of the University’s Cannabis Research Institute, and David Powell, a senior economist in the Rand Corporation, have been awarded a two-year grant of more than $460,000 for their proposed research, "Can Mandatory Electronic Prescriptions Reduce Opioid Abuse?"

Abouk, an associate professor in the University’s Cotsakos College of Business, and Powell are co-principal investigators.They will research whether mandated electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) helps to reduce inappropriate opioid use, abuse and overdoses.

“Overdoses involving opioids is one of the top public health concerns in the country,” says Abouk. “Several states have been trying to establish a system by which physicians must send prescriptions electronically to pharmacies in an effort to reduce forgeries.”

The first state to do so was Minnesota in 2011 but it was not fully enforced. In March 2016, the state of New York established an active mandate on prescribing. Next, Maine implemented a mandate for controlled substances only, beginning in July 2017.Approximately eight states are in the process of adopting this mandate, reports Abouk.

Abouk and Powell will study the ramifications of the New York and Maine mandates on a comprehensive set of opioid-related outcomes while also considering whether the Minnesota law may have had similar effects by encouraging the use of e-prescribing.

E-prescribing combines many of the features of prescription drug monitoring programs which researchers believe are especially successful in reducing opioid abuse. This project will provide some of the first evidence about the potential effectiveness of these mandates.

“This research is very important because other states are trying to learn whether these e-prescribing systems would lead to improved health outcomes,” says Abouk.

William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey established a Cannabis Institute in 2019 to provide evidence-based scientific and economic information on topics related to cannabis, as well as opioid drugs and other substances. 

The Rand Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis.