Opioid prescriptions in the crosshairs

February 17, 2017
Pinar Karaca-Mandic

Between 1999 and 2015, more than 183,000 people in the United States died from overdoses related to prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That is far too many for Pinar Karaca-Mandic, associate professor in the University’s School of Public Health.

Karaca-Mandic is out to reduce the incidence of opioid drug abuse and overdose. To do this, data on current prescription practices and usage is essential. Karaca-Mandic began gathering it with a study of hospital practices around the prescription of opioids to Medicare patients, focusing on those who had no recorded opioid use before their hospital stay.

She and her colleagues discovered that new opioid use is common among Medicare patients, with much variation across hospitals. Among those who made a claim for opioid medications within seven days of discharge, 43 percent were still filling the prescriptions 90 days later. What remains to be determined is the degree to which the observed variation in postdischarge opioid use reflects inappropriate prescribing. If inappropriate use can be identified, hospital practices can be modified to reduce the risk of overdose, abuse, and addiction. 

Karaca-Mandic has ongoing research interests in understanding appropriate opioid prescribing by providers in several settings, including orthopedics as well as primary care.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.