VA-enrolled veterans with Medicare drug coverage see more deadly opioid overdoses, study finds

More than half of Department of Veterans Affairs enrollees also have Medicare drug coverage, a dual system that can lead to uncoordinated and potentially unsafe opioid use, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The study, which was funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, compared case and control patients who were enrolled in VA and Part D prescription coverage from 2012-13 and filled at least one opioid prescription from either program. Researchers matched and compared 215 case patients who died of a prescription opioid overdose to 833 living control patients.

Of the patients, 60 case patients and 117 control patients had prescription coverage through the VA and Medicare. Patients with dual coverage had significantly higher odds of death from prescription opioid overdose than patients who just had coverage through either the VA or Part D, according to the study.

"Among veterans enrolled in VA and Part D, dual use of opioid prescriptions was independently associated with death from prescription opioid overdose," the study authors concluded. "This risk factor for fatal overdose among veterans underscores the importance of care coordination across health care systems to improve opioid prescribing safety."

More articles on opioids:
Massachusetts hospitals embrace recovery coaches for overdose patients           
CMS updates opioid mapping tool: 3 things to know
FDA mandates drugmaker research into opioids for chronic pain

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