Opiod Prescriptions: Marked Increase in 10 Year Period

Matthew Daubresse, MHS
Research Data Analyst
Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness
Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
615 N. Wolfe Street, Suite W6023
Baltimore, MD 21205

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

Answer: Over the past decade, prescriptions for non-opioid medications remained stable or declined among ambulatory pain visits in the United States. In visits for new-onset musculoskeletal pain, non-opioid prescribing decreased from 38% of visits in 2000 to 29% of visits in 2010. During this time, opioid prescriptions nearly doubled. Few patient, provider, and visit characteristics were associated with the likelihood of opioid receipt, suggesting increases in opioid prescribing have occurred generally across different groups of patients. 

MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: We were surprised to discover prescriptions for non-opioid medications remained stable or declined, especially given no significant change in the proportion of doctor’s office visits with pain or in the proportion of pain visits treated with pain relievers.


MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer: Clinicians and patients should be fully aware of the trade-offs between different pain-relievers. Efforts to improve the identification and treatment of pain may have contributed to an over-reliance on prescription opioids and reductions in the use of safer alternatives to opioids like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

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

Answer: Future work should examine the large proportion of pain visits that did not result in the receipt of an analgesic. This type of work would assist in determining whether current levels of pain treatment in the United States are sufficient. With more detailed information related to indication and dosage, future studies could also assist in determining the appropriateness of pain prescriptions.


Ambulatory Diagnosis and Treatment of Nonmalignant Pain in the United States, 2000–2010
M. Daubresse, H.Y. Chang, S. Viswanathan, Y. Yu, N. Shah, R.S. Stafford, S. Kruszewski, G.C. Alexander
Value in Health – May 2013 (Vol. 16, Issue 3, Page A127, DOI: 10.1016/j.jval.2013.03.615)


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