Studies, Editorial Examine Opioid-Related Deaths, Prescribing Patterns

Bottom Line: Opioid-related deaths in the United States and a description of prescribing patterns for two opioid formulations (immediate-release and extended-release) to manage chronic pain are the focus of two studies and an editorial.

Why The Research Is Interesting: Opioid prescribing and overdose are leading public health problems. Examining the impact of opioid-related deaths over time helps to quantify the public health burden. Opioid misuse, abuse and overdose has prompted some to reconsider prescribing practices for opioid analgesics.

What: Opioid-related deaths (where a prescription or illicit opioid contributed substantially to a person’s cause of death based on death certificates) increased in the United States between 2001 and 2016 from 33 to 130 deaths per 1 million population, and the proportion of all deaths attributable to opioids grew from 0.4 percent (1 in 255) to 1.5 percent (1 in 65) during that time.

Authors: Tara Gomes, Ph.D., of St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Canada, and coauthors

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What: Most patients receiving opioid pain medication, whether for short-term or extended use, use immediate-release formulations, according to a study of 169 million people receiving opioid medications from most of the outpatient retail pharmacies in the United States from 2003 through 2014.

Authors: Tamra E. Meyer, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, Maryland, and coauthors

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Related Material: The editorial, “Suggested Paths to Fixing the Opioid Crists: Directions and Misdirections,” by Jeffrey H. Samet, M.D., M.A., M.P.H., of Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine, and Stefan G. Kertesz, M.D., M.Sc., Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center and University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, als0 is available on the For The Media website.