"Opioids" by KSRE Photo is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

Policies Reducing Prescription Opioids Have Limited Effect on Overdose Deaths

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
"Opioids" by KSRE Photo is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0Dr. Qiushi Chen
(first author) and
Jagpreet Chhatwal PhD
Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School
Senior Scientist, Institute for Technology Assessment
Massachusetts General Hospital

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Opioid overdose epidemic is a national public health emergency — in 2017, more than 49,000 people died from overdose. Our study shows that under current conditions, the number of deaths is projected to increase to 81,700 by 2025. Efforts to curb the epidemic by reducing the incidence of prescription opioid misuse — the primary focus of current interventions — will have a modest effect of 3-5% reduction in overdose deaths.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our study projects that the opioid overdose crisis is expected to get worse in the coming years. It also shows the limited effect of current policies that solely focus on reducing exposure to prescription opioids on overdose deaths in the near term.

We need a multipronged approach that include strategies to identify people who have opioid use disorder, improve access to medications for opioid use disorder such as buprenorphine and methadone, and improving access to harm-reduction services. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: We need to evaluate the effect of different interventions — such as those improve access to treatment for opioid use disorder and harm reduction services — on reducing the overdose deaths in the near term.  


Chen Q, Larochelle MR, Weaver DT, et al. Prevention of Prescription Opioid Misuse and Projected Overdose Deaths in the United States. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(2):e187621. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.7621 

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Last Updated on February 2, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD