Bapu Jena: Physician Prescribing Linked to Higher Opioid Use

February 15, 2017

Opioid use is rising in the United States, and patients who receive treatment from doctors prescribing more of it are 30 percent more likely to become long-term opioid users, according to new research from Anupam Jena and coauthors.

Appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine, the research suggests that one out of every 49 people prescribed with an opioid for the first time will become a long-term user. Using Medicare date between 2008 and 2011, the researchers found that patients who saw doctors who prescribed opioids often were three times more likely to receive a prescription for opioids than patients seen by doctors who prescribed the drugs less often.

In an associated HMS press release, Jena said:

Who treats you matters. Our findings lend support to the narrative that we often hear—a patient happened to be prescribed an opioid by a dentist or in the emergency room and unwittingly became a long-term user. A physician who prescribes an opioid needs to be conscious that there is a significant risk that the patient could continue to be on an opioid for the long term, even from a single, short, initial prescription.

The research was covered in Kaiser Health News, Vox, New York Times, Reuters and STAT, among others. 

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