Patients treated by physicians with higher rates of prescribing opioids may be at higher risk for long-term use and opioid-related complications, according to new research presented at AcademyHealth’s Annual Research Meeting (ARM). Another ARM-presented study finds that increasing distribution of naloxone, the drug that reverses opioid overdoses, only to first responders and not to laypersons would save fewer lives and at a greater cost.
“If we are going to solve the opioid crisis, we need good evidence that both reveals its causes and helps develop viable policy solutions,” said Dr. Lisa Simpson, AcademyHealth President and CEO. “The research presented at this year’s Annual Research Meeting sheds light on the nature of this problem and points to effective policies that can bring relief to communities suffering greatly in the face of opioid addiction.”
Key opioid studies at this year’s ARM include:
- Emergency Physician Opioid Prescribing Patterns and Risk of Long-Term Use
Harvard researchers found significant variation in emergency room physicians’ opioid prescribing rates within the same hospital. Michael L. Barnett, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of health policy and management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and lead author of the study, also found higher rates of long-term opioid use among Medicare patients treated by high-intensity opioid prescribers. The patients treated by these physicians also experienced a higher rate of hospitalizations for opioid-related complications in older adults such as falls or fractures.
- Cost-Effectiveness of Alternative Naloxone Distribution Strategies: First Responder and Layperson Distribution*
Researchers compared the cost-effectiveness of the distribution of naloxone to first responders with naloxone distribution to laypersons. Tarlise Townsend, lead author of the study, and colleagues at the University of Michigan found that increasing naloxone distribution to opioid users and/or their close contacts was not only cost-saving but also reduced mortality more than increasing first responder distribution.
* Data has been updated since abstract submission. Details available upon request.
For more information about featured studies, please visit academyhealth.org/arm/pressroom.