Opioids still commonly prescribed at discharge

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Opioids remain a common prescription for patients at discharge, despite concerns that such prescriptions also introduce a risk for dependency, according to a new study.

The research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, examined a random sampling of Medicare claims for more than 620,000 hospitalized patients, found that nearly 15 percent filed a claim for an opioid prescription after discharge. None of the patients in the study had been prescribed an opioid in the two months prior to their hospitalization.

The study team also compared results on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), which measures patient satisfaction and may provide hospitals with incentives to prescribe opioid medications. The study found a positive association between the patients who were prescribed such painkillers and hospitals that had HCAHPS scores that showed patients believed their pain was well managed.

Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caution against using opioids due to the risk of addiction, FierceHealthcare previously reported. The study did not indicate whether inappropriate prescribing was involved in any of the included cases.

A second JAMA Internal Medicine study determined that issues also remain in storage, sharing and disposal of opioid medications. In a survey pool of more than 1,000 patients who had been prescribed opioids in the past year, about 21 percent reported sharing such drugs with someone else. The vast majority--73 percent--said they offered the opioids to help someone else with pain. The team noted that many people who use opioids recreationally obtain them from friends or family.

Nearly half of the respondents were still using opioids when surveyed, and more than 60 percent said they would keep leftover medication for the future. About half of the patients reported receiving information on safe storage and disposal from a physician.

- here’s the first study
- read the second study