HOULTON, Maine — A statewide prescription drug abuse prevention program has published a peer reviewed journal article highlighting the agency’s efficiency in changing prescribing behaviors and improving patient care in Maine.
Clare Desrosiers, executive director of the Diversion Alert program, said earlier this month that she and Sarah Levin Martin, Ph.D., of the Husson University School of Pharmacy, wrote the article for the November 2016 issue of the Center for Disease Control’s Chronic Disease Prevention Journal.
Diversion Alert assists Maine health care providers in identifying patients who may be abusing or illegally distributing prescription drugs.
The study compared survey data in Maine with 2013 and 2014 data from New Hampshire and Vermont, where prescribers and pharmacists did not use such a program.
Desrosiers said the study found that prescribers and pharmacists in Maine who used Diversion Alert increased their communication with patients and other providers involved in their patients’ care, became aware of patients arrested for prescription drugs possession or diversion, used best practices associated with prevention or detection of addiction and diversion more frequently, and attributed positive changes in their prescribing practices to the program.
Each month, Diversion Alert distributes a list of individuals arrested or summoned for prescription or illegal drug-related crimes in each public health district to prescribers, pharmacists and law enforcement agencies registered to receive the alerts. Health care providers are not required to share patient information with law enforcement officials.
Diversion Alert’s online database is the only system in Maine that links drug-related criminal charges statewide.
The study showed that in 2013, 87 percent of Maine survey respondents agreed that there was a prescription abuse-diversion problem in their local area. One year later, 98 percent agreed.
In Maine, 84 percent of respondents attributed improved attentiveness in prescribing to Diversion Alert. Fifty-nine percent said they used it as a way to intervene with patients who were abusing or diverting prescriptions, and 40 percent used it as a tool to screen new patients.
Forty-nine percent of Maine Health care providers said that in the last six months, they had become aware of patients in their care arrested for prescription drug possession or diversion, as opposed to 21 percent in New Hampshire and 29.6 percent in Vermont.
Desrosiers said there were some surprises in the study.
“One of the realizations we found was that providers in our state were less likely to discharge patients who had been arrested for diverting their medications,” she said. “That suggests that they tended to find alternate prescriptions for such people. This was really good to see.”
Desrosiers said that Diversion Alert is still struggling to secure long-term funding. The agency lost its funding at the end of December and needs to raise $55,000 by April before it can be considered for financing in the state’s biennial budget cycle.
“It is a constant struggle and certainly hampers the good work that we continue to do,” she said.