In the Literature: HM-Related Research You Need to Know

In This Edition

Literature at a Glance

A guide to this month’s studies


ED Visits Are Higher among Recipients of Chronic Opioid Therapy

Clinical question: Is there an association between the use of prescription opioids and adverse outcomes?

Background: Chronic opioid therapy is a common strategy for managing chronic, noncancer pain. There has been an increase in overdose deaths and ED visits (EDV) involving the use of prescription opioids.

Study design: Retrospective study from claims records.

Setting: Population in the Health Core Integrated Research Database, containing large, commercial insurance plans in 14 states, and Arkansas Medicaid.

Synopsis: Patients 18 and older without cancer diagnoses who used prescription opioids for at least 90 continuous days within a six-month period from 2000 to 2005 were examined for risk factors for EDVs and alcohol- or drug-related encounters (ADEs) in the 12 months following 90 days or more of prescribed opioids.

Patients with diagnoses of headache, back pain, and pre-existing substance-use disorders had significantly higher EDVs and ADEs. Opioid dose at morphine-equivalent doses over 120 mg per day doubled the risk of ADEs. The use of short-acting Schedule II opioids was associated with EDVs (relative risk, 1.09-1.74). The use of long-acting Schedule II opioids was strongly associated with ADEs (relative risk, 1.64-4.00).

Bottom line: In adults with noncancer pain prescribed opioids for 90 days or more, short-acting Schedule II opioid use was associated with an increased number of EDVs, and long-acting opioid use was associated with an increased number of ADEs. Minimizing Schedule II opioid prescription in these higher-risk patients might be prudent to increase patient safety.

Citation: Braden JB, Russo J, Fan MI, et al. Emergency department visits among recipients of chronic opioid therapy. Arch Intern Med. 2010; 170(16):1425-1432.

Clinical Short


Cross-sectional cohort study shows new prescriptions, asthma medications, and those with copayments or delivered electronically are more frequently abandoned than opioids, antiplatelet medications, prescriptions without copayments, and those prescriptions not electronically transmitted.

Citation: Shrank WH, Choudhry NK, Fischer MA, et al. The epidemiology of prescriptions abandoned at the pharmacy. Ann Intern Med. 2010;153(10):633-640.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *