Curbing opioid prescriptions should center on pain management as most physicians stick to guidelines, study shows

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A majority of physicians who prescribe opioids do so within recommended parameters, suggesting that strategies to deal with opioid abuse should focus on improving the management of complex pain patients and reducing additional chronic conditions that pain patients suffer from, according to a study published in The BMJ.

Researchers analyzed data from a national private insurer covering Americans in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. They studied 669,495 providers prescribing 8.9 million opioid prescriptions from 2003 through 2017.

They found top 1 percent of opioid prescribers — that is, the physicians with the highest rate of opioid prescriptions — accounted for 27 percent of all opioid prescriptions.

The top 1 percent of opioid prescribers prescribed an average of 748,000 opioid doses, nearly 1,000 times more than the middle 1 percent of prescribers.

In contrast, prescriptions written by the bottom 99 percent of opioid prescribers were within recommended thresholds.

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