Opioid abusers get prescriptions from primary care docs, not ERs


As the opioid abuse epidemic continues to rage, new research finds emergency doctors are not a major source for prescriptions of the drugs.

There’s a popular perception of opioid users as going back and forth between emergency departments for prescriptions, but research presented at the American College of Emergency Physicians 2016 Scientific Assembly indicates most heavy users get their drugs from primary care providers, according to Medscape Medical News.

Researchers, led by Michael Menchine, M.D., associate professor of clinical emergency medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, analyzed data from more than 47,000 participants in the Medical Panel Expenditure Survey from 1996 to 2012. They found that not only did 45 percent of the prescriptions come from primary care docs compared to only 16 percent from emergency departments, but the prescriptions for the heaviest doses were far more likely to come from primary care physicians.

“We have this anecdotal experience, this visceral reaction, that (people who use the most opioids) are bouncing around from ER to ER, clogging the system, but the data just don’t support that," Menchine told the publication. "I just don’t think that trying to ratchet back (opioid) prescribing (in EDs) is likely to be effective.”

Rather, he said, this could likely improve treatment for addicts, as emergency departments could put measures in place to identify potential abuse and refer them to treatment options. Hospitals can also take steps to improve treatment during the epidemic by ensuring clinician oversight in prescribing, making children aware of their alternative pain management options and guarding opiods against theft, FierceHealthcare previously reported.