Many surgeons overprescribed opioids as overdose rates soared, KHN analysis finds

Many surgeons continued to write excessive opioid prescriptions for patients after surgery amid skyrocketing rates of overdose deaths in the U.S., according to an analysis from Kaiser Health News.

KHN partnered with researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore for the analysis. Researchers examined Medicare data for nearly 350,000 prescriptions written by about 20,000 surgeons from 2011-16. The analysis focused on patients undergoing seven common types of surgical procedures, including coronary artery bypass and knee surgery. Patients included in the analysis had not received an opioid prescription in the year prior to their surgery.

Researchers found thousands of surgeons wrote prescriptions for "far more pills than needed for postoperative pain relief," KHN said. For example, the highest-prescribing 1 percent of surgeons gave coronary artery bypass patients an average of 105 opioid pills in the week after surgery. Patients undergoing a lumpectomy, a far less painful operation, still received an average of 26 pills after surgery from the highest prescribers. Current prescribing guidelines call for up to 30 pills for a coronary bypass surgery and up to 10 pills for many of the other procedures included in the analysis.

A  significant amount of people who develop opioid use disorder first received a prescription after surgery, KHN noted.

The publication contacted dozens of surgeons involved in the analysis, and most declined to comment. However, several noted the analysis did not account for important factors, such as whether patients had surgical complications.

To view the full analysis, click here.

More articles about opioids:
White House announces finalists in challenge for automated tech to detect opioids in mail
States with medical marijuana laws have higher opioid overdose rates, study finds
How IU Health cut opioid prescriptions 30% in its EDs

 

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