Emergency Room Prescriptions for Opioid Pain Medications Markedly Increase

Maryann Mazer-Amirshahi PharmD, MD1MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Maryann Mazer-Amirshahi PharmD, MD
The Department of Emergency Medicine, The George Washington University
The Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, DC

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: We found a significant increase in the prescribing of opioid pain medications in the emergency department. At the same time, this was not accounted for by a similar increase in pain-related visits and prescribing patterns of non-opioid analgesics did not change.

MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer:  We were surprised by the fact that the most profound increases were for opioid medications that are very potent and have high abuse potential, such as hydromorphone. In addition, we found very significant increases in opioid prescribing for conditions for which opioids are not recommended for first-line treatment, such as headache and chest pain.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from this study?

Answer:  These findings are very concerning given the current rates of opioid abuse, overdoses, and related-fatalities. We hope this report encourages emergency medicine providers to consider evidence-based recommendations for opioid prescribing, optimize available non-opioid therapies whenever possible, and if opioids are prescribed, to facilitate appropriate follow up.

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

Answer:  Ideally, future areas of study would include to further describe the link between the prescription and subsequent misuse or abuse, the effect of prescription drug monitoring programs and other initiatives on opioid prescribing in emergency departments, and to further develop evidence-based recommendations to guide opioid prescribing.


Rising Opioid Prescribing in Adult U.S. Emergency Department Visits: 2001–2010
Maryann Mazer-Amirshahi PharmD, MD, Peter M. Mullins MA, Irit Rasooly,
John van den Anker MD, PhD and Jesse M. Pines MD, MBA, MSCE

Article first published online: 13 MAR 201

Academic Emergency Medicine 2014;21:236243 © 2014 by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Last Updated on November 4, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD