Overdose Patients Continue to Receive Opioid Prescriptions

Over 90% of patients who survived an overdose from prescription opioids continued to receive prescriptions for the drugs after the overdose event, indicates a new report published in the December 28, 2015 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. These incidents occur because the doctors who prescribe the drugs often do not receive a record of the overdose from emergency departments, and patients who are dependent on opioids are less likely to report to their prescribing physician that they overdosed and were in the emergency room. The study found that patients who continued taking drugs such as OxyContin®, Vicodin®, and Percocet® following an overdose were two times more likely to experience another overdose within two years, notes MedlinePlus. Oxycodone and hydrocodone are the most frequently prescribed opioids, and according to the study, cause more overdose deaths than any other narcotic, indicates MedlinePlus. To conduct the study, researchers used an insurance claims database to gather data on nearly 3,000 people who overdosed on prescription opioids over 12 years. The lead researcher of the study suggests that improving communication between emergency departments and prescribing physicians is one step to addressing this problem. (Sources: Marc Larochelle, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor, medicine, Boston University School of Medicine; Scott Krakower, D.O., assistant unit chief, psychiatry, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, N.Y.; Dec. 28, 2015, Annals of Internal Medicine)