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Study quantifies disproportionate opioid prescribing

June 16, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Five percent of opioid prescribers wrote 40% of narcotic prescriptions nationwide in 2011-2012, with family practice and internal medicine seeing some of the largest volume of high prescribers, a study from pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts has found.

According to the study, results of which were released this month at the annual research meeting of AcademyHealth, high-prescribing physicians wrote an average of 4.6 opioid prescriptions per patient, compared to an average of 1.3 opioid prescriptions per patient for their lower-prescribing peers. Patients who saw high-prescribing doctors incurred opioid costs that were nearly 5 times higher than those for other patients.

The study also reported that out of the more than 500,000 prescribers whose practices were analyzed, only 385 were identified as pain specialists.

“The findings of this study could indicate the need for better education about prescribing guidelines or tighter controls on narcotic prescribing,” Glen Stettin, MD, Express Scripts' senior vice president of Clinical, Research & New Solutions, said in a news release.