Under-Utilization of Effective Pharmacy Programs to Identify Opioid Abuse

HealthDay News — Pharmacy programs to reduce opioid abuse are effective but underused, according to a new study published in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.1

Stephanie Nichols, PharmD, of the Husson University School of Pharmacy in Bangor, Maine, and colleagues found that opioids were prescribed to 22.4% of Maine residents in 2014, enough to provide every person in the state with a 16.1-day supply. While that percentage is down slightly from 2010, “it is still a very large number,” Dr Nichols said in a journal news release. However, even though Maine has had a prescription drug monitoring program since 2004, it was used by only 56.2% of 275 pharmacists surveyed by the researchers in 2014.

Prescriptions for oxycodone and hydrocodone were lower in 2014, but there was a sharp rise in buprenorphine prescriptions. Along with a prescription drug monitoring program, Maine also has a program that enables health care providers to find out if a patient has a history of drug-related arrests. Arrests increased by 13.3% from 2014 to 2015, with proportion of arrests involving prescription opioids decreasing as those involving stimulants and heroin rose.

A second study in the same issue of the journal examined drug take-back events in which people can drop off their unneeded prescription drugs for safe disposal.2 Researchers surveyed 906 adults in New Jersey and found that efforts to raise public awareness about take-back programs seemed effective. People who had seen media coverage on drug take-backs or signs at their local drugstore were twice as likely to have used the programs in the past 30 days as other people. The findings suggest that when people are aware of drug take-back programs, they will use them, study author Itzhak Yanovitzky, PhD, of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, said in the news release.

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1. Piper BJ, Desrosiers CE, Lipovsky JW, et al. Use and Misuse of Opioids in Maine: Results From Pharmacists, the Prescription Monitoring, and the Diversion Alert Programs. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2016;77(4):556-565.

2. Yanovitzky I. The American Medicine Chest Challenge: Evaluation of a Drug Take-Back and Disposal Campaign. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2016;77(4):549-555.