Nav: Home

Opioid abuse drops when doctors check patients' drug history

May 01, 2017

ITHACA, N.Y. - There's a simple way to reduce the opioid epidemic gripping the country, according to new Cornell University research: Make doctors check their patients' previous prescriptions.

The most significant response to the opioid epidemic comes from state governments. Nearly every state now has a database that tracks every prescription for opioids like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin. Using these databases, doctors and pharmacists can retrieve a patient's history to decide whether they are an opioid abuser before prescribing them drugs.

Such databases reduce opioid abuse among Medicare recipients - but only when laws require doctors to consult them, according to a Cornell health care economist and her colleague. Their study refutes previous research suggesting the databases have no effect on opioid abuse. The paper is forthcoming in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.

"The main issue is getting providers to change their prescribing behavior. The majority of opioids that people abuse start in the medical system as a legitimate prescription," said co-author Colleen Carey, assistant professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology. Her co-author is Thomas Buchmueller of the University of Michigan.

States that implemented a "must access" database saw a decline in the number of Medicare recipients who got more than a seven-months' supply in a six-month period. And there was a decrease in those who filled a prescription before the previous prescription's supply had been used.

"Doctor shopping" also dropped. Medicare opioid users who got prescriptions from five or more doctors -- a common marker for "doctor shopping" -- fell by 8 percent; the number of those who got opioids from five or more pharmacies declined by more than 15 percent

On the flip side, Medicare patients appeared to evade the new regulations by traveling to a less-regulated state.

Although the study looked only at Medicare recipients, the findings are likely to translate to the general population, the researchers said. The effects were especially large for low-income disabled users and for those who obtain opioid prescriptions from a high number of doctors; both groups have the highest rates of misuse and abuse, Carey said.

The strongest effects were in states with the strictest laws, such as New York, which require doctors to check the opioid history of "every patient, every time." But even states with laws requiring access only under certain circumstances reduced doctor shopping.

Until recently Medicare has had very few legislative tools to curtail the epidemic

And insurance companies have little incentive, because opioids are relatively cheap, costing about $1.60 per day in the study's sample. And opioids don't hit Medicare insurers in the bottom line, making up only 3 percent of their total drug costs, Carey said.
-end-
Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews. For additional information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.

Cornell University

Related Opioids Articles:

Opioids for chronic non-cancer pain doubled in quarter century
A review of 24 years of global research has shown opioid prescribing doubled between 1991-2015, with demand most common for chronic conditions such as chronic lower back pain, finds University of Sydney-led research.
Cancer screening among women prescribed opioids
US women who take prescription opioids are no less likely to receive key cancer screenings when compared to women who are not prescribed opioids.
Parents: Turkey makes great leftovers -- opioids do not
Leftover prescription opioids pose big risks to kids, yet most parents keep their own and their child's unused painkillers even after they're no longer medically necessary for pain.
Co-addiction of meth and opioids hinders treatment
A study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that methamphetamine use was associated with more than twice the risk for dropping out of treatment for opioid-use disorder.
Computer game may help to predict reuse of opioids
A computer betting game can help predict the likelihood that someone recovering from opioid addiction will reuse the pain-relieving drugs, a new study shows.
Postpartum women are getting prescribed more opioids than needed
New University of Minnesota Medical School research finds postpartum women are generally getting prescribed more narcotics than they need.
Cannabis found not to be a substitute for opioids
The research team looked at all research on the effects of cannabis use on illicit opioid use during methadone maintenance therapy, which is a common treatment for opioid use disorder, and found six studies involving more than 3,600 participants.
VA investigates impact of opioids, sedatives on veterans
Nearly 20 veterans kill themselves each day in the United States, a statistic that has led the Department of Veterans Affairs to make suicide prevention its highest priority and to recognize the risks from the simultaneous use of opioids and benzodiazepines.
Of all professions, construction workers most likely to use opioids and cocaine
Construction workers are more likely to use drugs than workers in other professions, finds a study by the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU College of Global Public Health.
US-born residents more than 5 times likely to use prescription opioids than new immigrants
The longer immigrants live in the United States, the more likely they are to use prescription opioids -- a fact that contradicts popular views linking wealth and health, and suggests that American culture is uniquely favorable toward prescribing opioids.
More Opioids News and Opioids Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Uncharted
There's so much we've yet to explore–from outer space to the deep ocean to our own brains. This hour, Manoush goes on a journey through those uncharted places, led by TED Science Curator David Biello.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 2: Every Day is Ignaz Semmelweis Day
It began with a tweet: "EVERY DAY IS IGNAZ SEMMELWEIS DAY." Carl Zimmer – tweet author, acclaimed science writer and friend of the show – tells the story of a mysterious, deadly illness that struck 19th century Vienna, and the ill-fated hero who uncovered its cure ... and gave us our best weapon (so far) against the current global pandemic. This episode was reported and produced with help from Bethel Habte and Latif Nasser. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.