Study: EDs have little to do with rise in opioid prescribing

February 6, 2018
Medicare Web

High-risk opioid users are less likely to get a disproportionate quantity of opioid prescriptions from the emergency department (ED) than they are at an office visit, according to a recent study in Annals of Emergency Medicine.

The study examined opioid prescribing in the ED, inpatient setting, and provider offices to uncover prescribing trends in each setting. The data was derived from an analysis of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey from 1996 to 2012. Patients who received one or more opioid prescriptions were included in the retrospective study, except for patients under the age of 18 and those with cancer.

From 1996 to 2012, the research revealed a 471% increase in the total quantity of opioids prescribed in the United States. Opioids prescribed in provider offices increased from 71% of the total proportion of opioids prescribed across the studied settings in 1996 to 83% in 2012. However, opioid prescribing in the ED declined from 7.4% in 1996 to 4.4% in 2012, according to the study.

Researchers concluded that future efforts to curb opioid prescribing practices should not focus so much on the ED, but rather physician office settings. The study recommended that hospitals instead focus on tools that can help ED providers identify and refer high-risk patients.

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