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Five students and a faculty member at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (GCSOM) have published an article in the Jan. 17 edition of  PeerJ, the Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences. PeerJ is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal that publishes primary research and reviews in biology, life sciences, environmental sciences and medicine. 

The student authors are Fedor Cabrera, Erik Gamarra, Tiffany Garcia and Ashanti Littlejohn, all first-year medical students, as well as Daniel Chung, MBS. Faculty author is Brian Piper, PhD. 

The paper, entitled Opioid distribution trends (2006–2017) in the U.S. Territories examined common prescription opioids over the last decade in Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands – areas traditionally overlooked in opioid pharmacoepidemiology research. Puerto Rico had the greatest oral morphine milligram equivalent (MME) per capita. It was significantly higher than either the Virgin Islands or Guam (118.9) but significantly lower than Hawaii or Florida. Methadone was the largest opioid by MMEs in 2017 in every area studied. Puerto Rico and Florida showed pronounced differences in the distribution patterns by pharmacies, hospitals and narcotic treatment programs for opioids. 

The paper concluded that continued monitoring of U.S. Territories is needed to provide a balance between appropriate access to these important agents for cancer-related and acute pain, while also minimizing diversion and avoiding the opioid epidemic which has adversely impacted the U.S. mainland. 

Other authors included Poul A. Chinga of the University of Scranton; Luis D. Pinentel-Morillo of the Pennsylvania State University; Jorge R. Tirado of Elizabethtown College; Leana J. Pande of Wilkes University;  Kenneth L. McCall of the University of New England; and Stephanie D. Nichols, Husson University.

Authors Felix F. Cabrera, Erik R. Gamarra, Tiffany E. Garcia, Ashanti D. Littlejohn, Poul A. Chinga, Luis D. Pimental-Morillo, and Jorge R. Tirardo were supported by GCSOM’s Center of Excellence, Health Resources and Services Administration (D34HP31025).

PeerJ 2019
From left, top row: Brian Piper, PhD; Fedor Cabrera; Erik Gamarra. Bottom row: Tiffany Garcia; Ashanti Littlejohn; Daniel Chung, MBS.