Nearly 30% of outpatient opioid prescriptions are unjustified — 4 study insights

A study published in Annals of Internal Medicine examined outpatient opioid prescriptions and found nearly 30 percent were prescribed without clinical justification.

Researchers used National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data to review opioid prescriptions between 2006 and 2015. Physicians prescribed opioids in about 809 million outpatient visits.

Here's what you should know:

1. Of all prescriptions, 5.1 percent were for patients with cancer pain. About 66.4 percent were for patients with pain unrelated to cancer. The remaining 28.5 percent of prescriptions were for patients with no record of pain or pain-related conditions.

2. The most common pain diagnoses treated with opioids were back pain, diabetes, chronic pain, nonspecific pain and arthritis.

3. The most common diagnoses of the prescriptions with no pain indication were high blood pressure, high cholesterol and opioid dependence.

4. Prescriptions with no pain indication were more common in visits where prescriptions were being renewed (30.5 percent) than when they were first written (22.7 percent).

Researchers said their findings highlight "the need for periodic reassessment of the medical need to refill an opioid prescription."

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