Differences in adverse outcomes across race and ethnicity among Veterans with similar predicted risks of an overdose or suicide-related event

Pain Med. 2024 Feb 1;25(2):125-130. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnad129.


Objective: To evaluate the degree to which differences in incidence of mortality and serious adverse events exist across patient race and ethnicity among Veterans Health Administration (VHA) patients receiving outpatient opioid prescriptions and who have similar predicted risks of adverse outcomes. Patients were assigned scores via the VHA Stratification Tool for Opioid Risk Mitigation (STORM), a model used to predict the risk of experiencing overdose- or suicide-related health care events or death. Individuals with the highest STORM risk scores are targeted for case review.

Design: Retrospective cohort study of high-risk veterans who received an outpatient prescription opioid between 4/2018-3/2019.

Setting: All VHA medical centers.

Participants: In total, 84 473 patients whose estimated risk scores were between 0.0420 and 0.0609, the risk scores associated with the top 5%-10% of risk in the STORM development sample.

Methods: We examined the expected probability of mortality and serious adverse events (SAEs; overdose or suicide-related events) given a patient's risk score and race.

Results: Given a similar risk score, Black patients were less likely than White patients to have a recorded SAE within 6 months of risk score calculation. Black, Hispanic, and Asian patients were less likely than White patients with similar risk scores to die within 6 months of risk score calculation. Some of the mortality differences were driven by age differences in the composition of racial and ethnic groups in our sample.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that relying on the STORM model to identify patients who may benefit from an interdisciplinary case review may identify patients with clinically meaningful differences in outcome risk across race and ethnicity.

Keywords: Veterans; algorithm; opioid; risk prediction.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Drug Overdose* / epidemiology
  • Ethnicity
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Suicide*
  • Veterans*


  • Analgesics, Opioid