Usefulness of Prescription Monitoring Programs for Surveillance--Analysis of Schedule II Opioid Prescription Data in Massachusetts, 1996-2006

Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2010 Feb;19(2):115-23. doi: 10.1002/pds.1878.


Purpose: Electronic prescription monitoring programs (PMPs) have been developed in many states as a public health surveillance tool. We analyze herein 11 years of Massachusetts PMP data to evaluate trends in opioid prescribing, dispensing, and usage.

Methods: Prescription records from the Massachusetts PMP for Schedule II opioids from fiscal year 1996 to 2006 were analyzed. 'Questionable activity' (potential 'doctor shopping') estimates were based on individual use of multiple prescribers and pharmacies, and early refills.

Results: The number of prescriptions, doses prescribed, and individuals receiving Schedule II prescription opioids steadily increased from 1996 to 2006. Most individuals (87.5%) used 1-2 prescribers, 1-2 pharmacies, and had no early refills (2006). The greater the number of prescribers used, the greater the number of pharmacies used. When defined as the use of >or=4 prescribers and >or=4 pharmacies, questionable activity accounted for 2748 individuals, 47 953 prescriptions, and 2 966 056 doses (2006). The Schedule II opioid most highly associated with questionable activity was short-acting oxycodone.

Conclusions: PMPs can become a useful public health surveillance tool to monitor the medical and non-medical use of prescription opioids and to inform public health and safety policy.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / standards
  • Databases as Topic
  • Drug Monitoring / standards*
  • Electronic Prescribing / standards
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Massachusetts


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Illicit Drugs