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JOURNAL

Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment

Doctor Shopping Behavior and the Diversion of Prescription Opioids

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Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment 2017:11 1178221817696077

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Published on 11 Apr 2017

DOI: 10.1177/1178221817696077


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Abstract

Objectives:

“Doctor shopping” as a means of prescription opioid diversion is examined. The number and percentage of prescriptions and morphine-equivalent milligrams diverted in this manner are estimated by state and molecule for the period 2008-2012.

Methods:

Eleven billion prescriptions with unique patient, doctor, and pharmacy identifiers were used to construct diversion “events” that involved between 1 and 6 unique doctors and between 1 and 6 unique pharmacies. Diversion thresholds were established based on the probability of each contingency.

Results:

A geographically widespread decline occurred between 2008 and 2012. The number of prescriptions diverted fell from approximately 4.30 million (1.75% of all prescriptions) in 2008 to approximately 3.37 million (1.27% of all prescriptions) in 2012, and the number of morphine-equivalent milligrams fell from approximately 6.55 metric tons (2.95% of total metric tons) in 2008 to approximately 4.87 metric tons (2.19% of total metric tons) in 2012.

Conclusions:

Diversion control efforts have likely been effective. But given increases in opioid-related deaths, opioid-related drug treatment admissions, and the more specific resurgence of heroin-related events, it is clear that additional public health measures are required.



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