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Data Show Excessive Prescribing of Opioids by Dentists Common

February 06, 2020

Research covering the period from 2011-2015 has found that around half of opioid prescriptions written by dentists exceeded the three-day supply recommended in pain management guidelines for the profession.

Published this week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research-supported study looked at more than 500,000 dental visits recorded in the Truven Health MarketScan Research Databases. The researchers found that 53% of the time in the 2011-2015 period, dentists exceeded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended supply of opioids for patients. In addition, the prescribed drugs were judged to be more powerful than deemed medically necessary in 29% of cases.

“Our statistical models suggest that even something as simple and straightforward as substituting a lower-potency opioid like hydrocodone for oxycodone could make an enormous reduction in overprescribing, as much as a 20% reduction,” said Jessina McGregor, a researcher at the Oregon State University College of Pharmacy, one of several institutions participating in the study.

Men, residents of the South, and patients ages 18 to 34 were found to be most likely to receive dental prescriptions for painkillers that were stronger than needed, the researchers reported. The median age of the overall study population was 46.

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