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Maine’s Diversion Alert Program Aids Physician Decision-Making

Physicians must take into account many factors when making decisions about opioid prescriptions, including the risk that the individual patient may divert prescription medications for illegal use. To aid physician decision-making, the state of Maine in 2013 instituted its Diversion Alert program, a program that gives physicians access to state records of arrests or summons for prescription or illegal drug-related crimes. Physicians can view data from the previous 11 months, and can receive monthly updates.

Physicians using the program are not required to share any information with state law enforcement; as the program website puts it, “The flow of information in this program is from law enforcement to healthcare professionals.”

According to a study in Pharmacotherapy, using data drawn from the database, heroin-related arrests increased by almost 50% from 2015 to 2016, while methamphetamine arrests increased by 170%. According to a separate study in Prevention of Chronic Diseases, in a survey of respondents using the program, 84% reported increased attentiveness to prescribing, 59% said it helped in intervening with patients who were abusing or diverting prescriptions, and 40% used it to help screen new patients.

July 5, 2017