Prescription Monitoring Program Trends Among Individuals Arrested in Maine for Trafficking Prescription Drugs in 2014

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To evaluate controlled substance prescribing trends available in the Maine Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) among individuals arrested for prescription drug “trafficking.” The demographic characteristics of the individuals who had matching prescription records in the PMP within 90 days of the arrest were identified.

STUDY DESIGN

A population-based, retrospective cohort study using data from the Maine Diversion Alert Program (DAP) and the Maine PMP. The study population consisted of persons arrested for trafficking prescription drugs in Maine during the 2014 calendar year from January 1 to December 31.

RESULTS

There were 594 trafficking arrests reported by the Maine DAP in 2014. The study population consisted of the 235 persons (40%) with arrests involving controlled prescription medications. The mean age of these persons was 33 years (range 18–77 yrs), and 156 (66%) were male. Arrests involved 154 prescription opioids (65%), seven stimulants (3%), seven benzodiazepines (3%), and 77 unspecified controlled prescription drugs (33%). A minority of individuals (n=57, 24%) had a prescription record in the PMP that matched the substance involved in the arrest. Only one person with matching PMP and arrest records utilized ≥ 5 prescribers, while none used ≥ 5 pharmacies within 90 days before the arrest. Payment methods for matching prescriptions were commercial insurance (n=28, 49%), Medicaid (n=19, 33%), Medicare (n=5, 9%), and cash (n=5, 9%).

CONCLUSIONS

The majority (76%) of persons arrested for prescription drug trafficking did not have PMP records and did not directly obtain the diverted medication from a licensed pharmacy. Traditional red flags, like cash payment and using multiple prescribers or pharmacies, were uncommon. Therefore, arrest records for diversion and PMPs are distinct and complementary tools for identifying individuals at risk for substance misuse.

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