Breaking News
May 3, 2019 - Vaping and Smoking May Signal Greater Motivation to Quit
May 3, 2019 - Dementia looks different in brains of Hispanics
May 3, 2019 - Short-Staffed Nursing Homes See Drop In Medicare Ratings
May 3, 2019 - Study of teens with eating disorders explores how substance users differ from non-substance users
May 3, 2019 - Scientists develop new video game that may help in the study of Alzheimer’s
May 3, 2019 - Arc Bio introduces Galileo Pathogen Solution product line at ASM Clinical Virology Symposium
May 3, 2019 - Cornell University study uncovers relationship between starch digestion gene and gut bacteria
May 3, 2019 - How to Safely Use Glucose Meters and Test Strips for Diabetes
May 3, 2019 - Anti-inflammatory drugs ineffective for prevention of Alzheimer’s disease
May 3, 2019 - Study tracks Pennsylvania’s oil and gas waste-disposal practices
May 3, 2019 - Creating a better radiation diagnostic test for astronauts
May 3, 2019 - Vegans are often deficient in these four nutrients
May 3, 2019 - PPDC announces seed grants to develop medical devices for children
May 3, 2019 - Study maps out the frequency and impact of water polo head injuries
May 3, 2019 - Research on Reddit identifies risks associated with unproven treatments for opioid addiction
May 3, 2019 - Good smells may help ease tobacco cravings
May 3, 2019 - Medical financial hardship found to be very common among people in the United States
May 3, 2019 - Researchers develop multimodal system for personalized post-stroke rehabilitation
May 3, 2019 - Study shows significant mortality benefit with CABG over percutaneous coronary intervention
May 3, 2019 - Will gene-editing of human embryos ever be justifiable?
May 3, 2019 - FDA Approves Dengvaxia (dengue vaccine) for the Prevention of Dengue Disease in Endemic Regions
May 3, 2019 - Why Tonsillitis Keeps Coming Back
May 3, 2019 - Fighting the opioid epidemic with data
May 3, 2019 - Maggot sausages may soon be a reality
May 3, 2019 - Deletion of ATDC gene prevents development of pancreatic cancer in mice
May 2, 2019 - Targeted Therapy Promising for Rare Hematologic Cancer
May 2, 2019 - Alzheimer’s disease is a ‘double-prion disorder,’ study shows
May 2, 2019 - Reservoir bugs: How one bacterial menace makes its home in the human stomach
May 2, 2019 - Clinical, Admin Staff From Cardiology Get Sneak Peek at Epic
May 2, 2019 - Depression increases hospital use and mortality in children
May 2, 2019 - Vicon and NOC support CURE International to create first gait lab in Ethiopia
May 2, 2019 - Researchers use 3D printer to make paper organs
May 2, 2019 - Viral infection in utero associated with behavioral abnormalities in offspring
May 2, 2019 - U.S. Teen Opioid Deaths Soaring
May 2, 2019 - Opioid distribution data should be public
May 2, 2019 - In the Spotlight: “I’m learning every single day”
May 2, 2019 - 2019 Schaefer Scholars Announced
May 2, 2019 - Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Bye-Bye, ACA, And Hello ‘Medicare-For-All’?
May 2, 2019 - Study describes new viral molecular evasion mechanism used by cytomegalovirus
May 2, 2019 - SLU study suggests a more equitable way for Medicare reimbursement
May 2, 2019 - Scientists discover first gene involved in lower urinary tract obstruction
May 2, 2019 - Researchers identify 34 genes associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer
May 2, 2019 - Many low-income infants receive formula in the first few days of life, finds study
May 2, 2019 - Global study finds high success rate for hip and knee replacements
May 2, 2019 - Taking depression seriously: What is it?
May 2, 2019 - With Head Injuries Mounting, Will Cities Put Their Feet Down On E-Scooters?
May 2, 2019 - Scientists develop small fluorophores for tracking metabolites in living cells
May 2, 2019 - Study casts new light into how mothers’ and babies’ genes influence birth weight
May 2, 2019 - Researchers uncover new brain mechanisms regulating body weight
May 2, 2019 - Organ-on-chip systems offered to Asia-Pacific regions by Sydney’s AXT
May 2, 2019 - Adoption of new rules drops readmission penalties against safety net hospitals
May 2, 2019 - Kids and teens who consume zero-calorie sweetened beverages do not save calories
May 2, 2019 - Improved procedure for cancer-related erectile dysfunction
May 2, 2019 - Hormone may improve social behavior in autism
May 2, 2019 - Alzheimer’s disease may be caused by infectious proteins called prions
May 2, 2019 - Even Doctors Can’t Navigate Our ‘Broken Health Care System’
May 2, 2019 - Study looks at the impact on criminal persistence of head injuries
May 2, 2019 - Honey ‘as high in sugars as table sugar’
May 2, 2019 - Innovations to U.S. food system could help consumers in choosing healthy foods
May 2, 2019 - FDA Approves Mavyret (glecaprevir and pibrentasvir) as First Treatment for All Genotypes of Hepatitis C in Pediatric Patients
May 2, 2019 - Women underreport prevalence and intensity of their own snoring
May 2, 2019 - Concussion summit focuses on science behind brain injury
May 2, 2019 - Booker’s Argument For Environmental Justice Stays Within The Lines
May 2, 2019 - Cornell research explains increased metastatic cancer risk in diabetics
May 2, 2019 - Mount Sinai study provides fresh insights into cellular pathways that cause cancer
May 2, 2019 - Researchers to study link between prenatal pesticide exposures and childhood ADHD
May 2, 2019 - CoGEN Congress 2019: Speakers’ overviews
May 2, 2019 - A new strategy for managing diabetic macular edema in people with good vision
May 2, 2019 - Sagent Pharmaceuticals Issues Voluntary Nationwide Recall of Ketorolac Tromethamine Injection, USP, 60mg/2mL (30mg per mL) Due to Lack of Sterility Assurance
May 2, 2019 - Screen time associated with behavioral problems in preschoolers
May 2, 2019 - Hormone reduces social impairment in kids with autism | News Center
May 2, 2019 - Researchers synthesize peroxidase-mimicking nanozyme with low cost and superior catalytic activity
May 2, 2019 - Study results of a potential drug to treat Type 2 diabetes in children announced
May 2, 2019 - Multigene test helps doctors to make effective treatment decisions for breast cancer patients
May 2, 2019 - UNC School of Medicine initiative providing unique care to dementia patients
May 2, 2019 - Nestlé Health Science and VHP join forces to launch innovative COPES program for cancer patients
May 2, 2019 - Study examines how our brain generates consciousness and loses it during anesthesia
May 2, 2019 - Transition Support Program May Aid Young Adults With Type 1 Diabetes
May 2, 2019 - Study shows how neutrophils exacerbate atherosclerosis by inducing smooth muscle-cell death
May 2, 2019 - Research reveals complexity of how we make decisions
Doctors nudged by overdose letter prescribe fewer opioids

Doctors nudged by overdose letter prescribe fewer opioids

Nudging clinicians toward better opioid prescribing. Credit: USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics

In a novel experiment, doctors got a letter from the medical examiner’s office telling them of their patient’s fatal overdose. The response: They started prescribing fewer opioids.

Other doctors, whose patients also overdosed, didn’t get letters. Their opioid prescribing didn’t change.

More than 400 “Dear Doctor” letters, sent last year in San Diego County, were part of a study that, researchers say, put a human face on the U.S. opioid crisis for many doctors.

“It’s a powerful thing to learn,” said University of Southern California public policy researcher Jason Doctor, lead author of the paper published Thursday in the journal Science.

Researchers used a state database to find 861 doctors, dentists and others who had prescribed opioids and other risky medications to 170 people who died of an overdose involving prescription medicines. Most states have similar databases to track prescribing of dangerous drugs, where doctors can check patients’ previous prescriptions.

Most of the deaths involved opioid painkillers, many taken in combination with anti-anxiety drugs. On average, each person who died had filled prescriptions for dangerous drugs from five to six prescribers in the year before they died.

Half the prescribers received letters that began: “This is a courtesy communication to inform you that your patient (name, date of birth) died on (date). Prescription drug overdose was either the primary cause of death or contributed to the death.”

The letters offered guidance for safer prescribing. The tone was supportive: “Learning of your patient’s death can be difficult. We hope that you will take this as an opportunity” to prevent future deaths.

Then the researchers watched what happened over three months.

Letter recipients reduced their average daily opioid prescribing—measured in a standard way, morphine milligram equivalents—by nearly 10 percent compared to prescribers who didn’t get letters. Opioid prescribing in the no-letter group didn’t change.

Recipients put fewer new patients on opioids than those who didn’t get letters. They wrote fewer prescriptions for high-dose opioids.

The strategy is original, helpful and could be duplicated elsewhere, said pain medicine expert Dr. David Clark of Stanford University, who wasn’t involved in the study. He was surprised the letter’s effect wasn’t larger.

“It may have been easy for physicians to feel it was somebody else prescribing who got the patient in trouble,” Clark said, adding that changing even one patient’s care takes time, requiring “very difficult conversations.”

Opioid prescribing has been declining in the U.S. for several years in response to pressure from health systems, insurers and regulators.

Yet deaths keep rising. Nearly 48,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses last year, according to preliminary numbers released last month, a 12 percent increase from a year before.

Now illegal fentanyl, another opioid, is the top killer, surpassing pain pills and heroin. Lead author Doctor said reducing the number of prescribed opioids will, over time, close off a gateway to illicit drugs by shrinking the pool of dependent people.

The study didn’t analyze whether the deaths were caused by inappropriate prescribing or whether the prescribing changes resulted in patients doing better or worse.

That’s a flaw in an otherwise careful study, said addiction researcher Dr. Stefan Kertesz of University of Alabama at Birmingham, who has raised red flags about policies that cause doctors to take patients off opioids too fast and without a plan for treating addiction.

Patients can fall into despair or contemplate suicide if they are involuntarily tapered off opioids without support, he said.

“What actually happens to patients should be our concern, rather than just making a number go down,” Kertesz said.

Study co-author Dr. Roneet Lev, chief of emergency medicine at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, discovered her own name in the data.

Lev prescribed 15 opioid pain pills to an ER patient with a broken eye socket, without knowing the patient got 300 painkillers from another doctor a day earlier. Lev didn’t get a “Dear Doctor” letter because the patient’s death fell outside the timeline of the study, July 2015-June 2016.

Still, she felt the impact and believes she could have done better. Said Lev: “It was an opportunity to look at all the records on that patient and say, ‘Wow, I’m really worried about you.'”


Explore further:
Overdose risk quintuples with opioid and benzodiazepine use

More information:
J.N. Doctor el al., “Opioid prescribing decreases after learning of a patient’s fatal overdose,” Science (2018). science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi … 1126/science.aat4595

Journal reference:
Science

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles