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Notification of Patient Overdose Deaths Reduces Clinician Opioid Prescriptions

Two bottles of pills with a prescription form

Clinicians were more likely to reduce the number and dose of opioid drugs they prescribed after learning that one of their patients had died from an overdose, says a recent study.

Photo: Devonyu/iStock

Clinicians were more likely to reduce the number and dose of opioid drugs they prescribed after learning that one of their patients had died from an overdose from a controlled substance than those not notified, according to a recent study appearing in the Aug. 10 issue of Science. The study was funded in part by NIA.

Dr. Jason Doctor of the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics at the University of Southern California and colleagues found that physicians who received a letter from the chief deputy medical examiner informing them of the overdose death of one of their patients reduced the number of opioids prescribed by 9.7 percent in the 3 months following the intervention.

“This finding could be very useful in the effort to reduce inappropriate prescribing of opioids without severely restricting availability of legally prescribed opioids for patients who should be getting them,” said NIA director Dr. Richard Hodes. “It shows that physicians respond to information about adverse outcomes. Behavioral ‘nudges’ like these letters could be a tool to help curb the opioid epidemic.”

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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Associate Editor: Carla Garnett
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Staff Writers:

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Dana Talesnik
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