Introduction: Opioid analgesic prescriptions are driving trends in drug overdoses, but little is known about prescribing patterns among medical specialties. We conducted this study to examine the opioid-prescribing patterns of the medical specialties over time.
Methods: IMS Health's National Prescription Audit (NPA) estimated the annual counts of pharmaceutical prescriptions dispensed in the U.S. during 2007-2012. We grouped NPA prescriber specialty data by practice type for ease of analysis, and measured the distribution of total prescriptions and opioid prescriptions by specialty. We calculated the percentage of all prescriptions dispensed that were opioids, and evaluated changes in that rate by specialty during 2007-2012. The analysis was conducted in 2013.
Results: In 2012, U.S. pharmacies and long-term care facilities dispensed 4.2 billion prescriptions, 289 million (6.8%) of which were opioids. Primary care specialties accounted for nearly half of all dispensed opioid prescriptions. The rate of opioid prescribing was highest for specialists in pain medicine (48.6%); surgery (36.5%); and physical medicine/rehabilitation (35.5%). The rate of opioid prescribing rose during 2007-2010 but leveled thereafter as most specialties reduced opioid use. The greatest percentage increase in opioid-prescribing rates during 2007-2012 occurred among physical medicine/rehabilitation specialists (+12.0%). The largest percentage drops in opioid-prescribing rates occurred in emergency medicine (-8.9%) and dentistry (-5.7%).
Conclusions: The data indicate diverging trends in opioid prescribing among medical specialties in the U.S. during 2007-2012. Engaging the medical specialties individually is critical for continued improvement in the safe and effective treatment of pain.
Published by Elsevier Inc.