Study: Improper Opioid Prescriptions Increase Risk of Death

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A recent study found that improper prescribing practices lead to a higher risk of death in opioid users. The study was conducted to determine the risk factors for mortality among those in the Georgia Medicaid population who use opioids.

The study analyzed individual pharmacy claims from 2009 to 2014 from Georgia Medicaid, which is the equivalent of California’s Medi-Cal insurance.  It included a sample of patients aged 18 to 64, who did not have a cancer diagnosis but were given an opioid prescription. It involved 3,562,227 observations representing 401,488 individuals. According to the results, there were 14,516 deaths among opioid users in the study sample, and 42 percent of those had at least one instance of inappropriate prescribing of an opioid drug.

The Risks of Inappropriate Opioid Prescriptions

The study revealed that the odds of death for opioid users was 1.76 higher for those who suffered at least one incident of potentially inappropriate prescription practices. This is in comparison to those who did not experience any inappropriate prescription of opioids. The data also found that opioid users who were in managed-care Medicaid were less likely to die, versus those in a fee-for-service plan.

The results of the study revealed a significant and positive association between potentially inappropriate opioid prescription practices and deaths among those who use opioids, in connection with Georgia Medicaid patients. The odds of dying are 76 percent greater for these opioid users.  Individuals enrolled in fee-for-service programs experienced even higher death rates than managed care enrollees. The odds of death for individual opioid user placed in managed-care Medicaid was decreased by 69 percent, versus those in fee-for-service programs.

With the right interventions and policies targeted at reducing the potential for inappropriate prescribing practices, it may help reduce the risk factors involving death for opioid users in this specific population.

Deaths directly related to opioid overdose continue to increase at alarmingly high numbers across the United States. Drug overdoses have become the leading cause of death among Americans age 50 and younger, and those deaths are often traced to prescription opioid use.

Opiate drugs are generally classified into three broad categories: “Opiates” usually refers to chemicals found in the opium or poppy plant.  More than twenty different types of opiates are found in the opium plant, but only six occur in large amounts, and of those six, only four are regularly used by health care professionals: morphine, codeine, thebaine, and papaverine.

Semi-synthetic opioids, on the other hand, are chemicals that are derived from opiates.  Oxycodone and hydrocodone are examples of semi-synthetic opioids. Semi-synthetic opioids are man-made chemicals that are derived from naturally occurring opiates. Heroin (whose scientific name is Diacetylmorphine), is another example of a semi-synthetic opioid.  Heroin is manufactured by boiling morphine—a natural opiate—together with acetic anhydride.

Finally, synthetic opioids are chemicals that are made in labs that mimic the effects of opiates but are not derived from the opium poppy. These manufactured, or synthesized, drugs are known as synthetic opioids. Examples include methadone, fentanyl and meperidine.

Any and all of these compounds have become drugs of abuse in the United States, responsible for countless deaths on a daily basis through self-induced overdose or misuse, wrongful prescription of these chemicals, or negligence on behalf of providers such as drug rehabilitation centers and/or sober living homes.

Los Angeles Medical Malpractice Attorney

Unfortunately, once individuals are ready to seek treatment for opioid abuse, they may end up under incapable hands. Our medical malpractice attorneys specifically represent victims of medical malpractice, who expected to receive proper treatment in opioid rehab facilities. If your loved one has died due to improper treatment or care while in a rehab facility, reach out for help from a Los Angeles medical malpractice attorney today.

Contact the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., to schedule your free case review. Call (323) 746-0087 today.

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