The utility of a statewide prescription drug-monitoring database vs the Current Opioid Misuse Measure for identifying drug-aberrant behaviors in emergency department patients already on opioids

Am J Emerg Med. 2020 Mar;38(3):503-507. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2019.05.035. Epub 2019 May 17.


Background: The most recent guidelines on prescribing opioids from the United States Centers for Disease Control recommend that clinicians not prescribe opioids as first-line therapy for chronic non-cancer pain. If an opioid prescription is considered for a patient already on opioids, prescribers are encouraged to check the statewide prescription drug monitoring database (PDMP). Some additional guidelines recommend screening tools such as the Current Opioid Misuse Measure (COMM) which may also help identify drug-aberrant behaviors.

Objective: To compare the PDMP and the Current Opioid Misuse Measure (COMM), a commonly-recommended screening tool for patients on opioids, in detecting drug-aberrant behaviors in patients already taking opioids at the time of ED presentation.

Methods: Patients on opioids were enrolled prospectively in a mixed urban-suburban ED seeing approximately 65,000 patients per year. The sensitivity, specificity, likelihood ratios, and diagnostic odds ratios of the PDMP and COMM were compared against objective criteria of drug-aberrant behaviors as documented in the electronic medical record (EMR) and medical examiner databases.

Results: Compared to the COMM, the PDMP had similar sensitivity (36% vs 45%) and similar specificity (79% vs 55%), but better positive predictive value, better negative predictive value, and better diagnostic odds ratio. The combination of the PDMP and the COMM did not improve the detection of drug-aberrant behaviors.

Conclusions: The PDMP alone is a more useful as a screening instrument than either the COMM or the combination of the PDMP plus COMM in patients already taking opioids at time of ED presentation. However, the PDMP misses a majority of patients with documented drug-aberrant behaviors in the EMR, and should not be used in isolation to justify whether a particular opioid prescription is appropriate.

Keywords: Current opioid misuse measure; Opioids; Prescription monitoring database; Prescription opioid misuse.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage*
  • Chronic Pain
  • Databases, Factual / standards*
  • Drug Monitoring / instrumentation*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prescription Drug Misuse / prevention & control*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Analgesics, Opioid