Opioid Epidemic: Doctors Gave No Reason for Nearly Third of Prescriptions

Henrietta Strickland
September 13, 2018

The analysis inspected data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey on opioid prescriptions handed out by doctors between 2006 and 2015.

Almost 30 percent of outpatient opioid prescriptions in the United States lack documented clinical reasons that justify the use of these potent drugs, according to a national analysis of physician visit records conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the RAND Corporation.

That means doctors did not document a reason, such as severe pain, for prescribing the addictive drugs.

There were more than 63,600 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the visits involving the prescription of an opioid, 5.1 percent were for the treatment of cancer-related pain, while 66.4 percent were for treating noncancer pain. About two-thirds concerned an opioid.

Americans have clear reasons to ensure opioids are being prescribed responsibly. Five percent were for pain related to cancer.

To combat this, the CDC developed and published guidelines for physicians prescribing opioids for chronic pain. Of the visits with no pain indication, the most common conditions were high blood pressure, high cholesterol and opioid dependence (2.2 percent).

In the last 20 years opioid prescriptions have increased dramatically and the CDC recommends that people should opt for other painkillers or ice. "The reasons for this could be truly inappropriate prescribing of opioids or merely lax documentation". He's seen the ravages of opioid addiction firsthand, and believes many cases were avoidable.

"Given that we can not explain this variation after adjusting for differences in patient characteristics, this study highlights opportunities to reduce the number of people exposed to prescription opioids for the first time and also to reduce the exposure to riskier high-intensity prescriptions".

"Are there different which that you might per chance per chance also imagine choices that can also rush, but moreover back cut back dangers for aspect effects, dependence, abuse or misuse?" he stated.

And even if an initial prescription of an opioid was justified, that "does not automatically justify a refill of that medication for future and ongoing care", Glatter said.

He stated though the types will be time-fascinating, it be crucial for physicians to narrative their rationale for giving any individual an opioid.

Non-opioid medications and different replacement approaches must be thought of, Glatter stated. All of this "requires creativity and taking time to 'ponder exterior the box, ' " he stated. "We owe it to our patients and their families".

"Whatever the reasons, lack of robust documentation undermines our efforts to understand physician prescribing patterns and curtails our ability to stem overprescribing", said study author Tisamarie Sherry, Harvard Medical School instructor in medicine and an associate physician at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation.

People with opioid use disorder are far more likely to drop out of treatment and relapse if they don't get Food and Drug Administration-approved drug treatment, the researchers noted.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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