Cover: Potentially Inappropriate Opioid Prescribing, Overdose, and Mortality in Massachusetts, 2011-2015

Potentially Inappropriate Opioid Prescribing, Overdose, and Mortality in Massachusetts, 2011-2015

Published in: Journal of General Internal Medicine (2018). doi:10.1007/s11606-018-4532-5

Posted on Aug 23, 2018

by Adam J. Rose, Dana Bernson, Kenneth Kwan Chui, Thomas Land, Alexander Y. Walley, Marc R. LaRochelle, Bradley D. Stein, Thomas J. Stopka


Potentially inappropriate prescribing (PIP) may contribute to opioid overdose.


To examine the association between PIP and adverse events.


Cohort study.


Three million seventy-eight thousand thirty-four individuals age ≥ 18, without disseminated cancer, who received prescription opioids between 2011 and 2015.

Main Measures

We defined PIP as (a) morphine equivalent dose ≥ 100 mg/day in ≥ 3 months; (b) overlapping opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions in ≥ 3 months; (c) ≥ 4 opioid prescribers in any quarter; (d) ≥ 4 opioid-dispensing pharmacies in any quarter; (e) cash purchase of prescription opioids on ≥ 3 occasions; and (f) receipt of opioids in 3 consecutive months without a documented pain diagnosis. We used Cox proportional hazards models to identify PIP practices associated with non-fatal opioid overdose, fatal opioid overdose, and all-cause mortality, controlling for covariates.

Key Results

All six types of PIP were associated with higher adjusted hazard for all-cause mortality, four of six with non-fatal overdose, and five of six with fatal overdose. Lacking a documented pain diagnosis was associated with non-fatal overdose (adjusted hazard ratio [AHR] 2.21, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.02-2.41), as was high-dose opioids (AHR 1.68, 95% CI 1.59-1.76). Co-prescription of benzodiazepines was associated with fatal overdose (AHR 4.23, 95% CI 3.85-4.65). High-dose opioids were associated with all-cause mortality (AHR 2.18, 95% CI 2.14-2.23), as was lacking a documented pain diagnosis (AHR 2.05, 95% CI 2.01-2.09). Compared to those who received opioids without PIP, the hazard for fatal opioid overdose with one, two, three, and [greater than or equal to] four PIP subtypes were 4.24, 7.05, 10.28, and 12.99 (test of linear trend, p < 0.001).


PIP was associated with higher hazard for all-cause mortality, fatal overdose, and non-fatal overdose. Our study implies the possibility of creating a risk score incorporating multiple PIP subtypes, which could be displayed to prescribers in real time.

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