Correlates of Prescription Opioid Legitimacy Judgments Among Community Pharmacists

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Background: Community pharmacists are legally required to evaluate and confirm the legitimacy of prescription opioids (POs) prior to dispensing. Yet, previous research has indicated community pharmacists perceive nearly 50% of dispensed POs to be issued lacking a legitimate medical purpose. Objective: To analyze correlates of PO legitimacy judgments across pharmacist and pharmacy setting characteristics. Methods: A cross-sectional study of 2000 Tennessee pharmacists was conducted during October and November of 2012. Community pharmacists' self-reported attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors specific to PO legitimacy were elicited. Step-wise multinomial logistic regression techniques were used to model correlates of PO legitimacy across low, moderate and high PO legitimacy estimations. Results: Being female, practicing in a chain or independent practice setting, fear of employer disciplinary action if PO legitimacy is questioned, and self-confidence in one's ability to detect PO abuse increased the odds of low (vs. high) PO legitimacy estimation (p < 0.05). Employment in chain and independent pharmacies, having POs as a greater percent of total prescriptions filled, and having the perception of PO abuse as a problem in the practice setting were significant positive correlates of moderate (vs high) PO legitimacy estimation (p < 0.05). Conclusions: Both modifiable and non-modifiable correlates were statistically significantly associated with PO legitimacy judgments. Distinct correlates were noted across low and moderate as compared to high estimations of PO legitimacy. Legitimacy judgments can inform theoretical exploration of PO dispensing behaviors and inform intervention development targeted at reducing and preventing prescription drug abuse.