People overdosing continue to get refills

Even after overdosing on opioid medications, more than nine out of 10 patients continued to get prescriptions for powerful painkillers, according to a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The overdoses examined in the report were serious enough to send patients to emergency rooms or get them admitted to hospitals, so they should not have escaped their doctors’ attention.  But that may be exactly what happened, the researchers surmised.  In 70% of the cases, the physician who prescribed opioid painkillers after the overdose was the same as the one who wrote the prescription before the overdose.  That tends to support the idea that the prescribers weren’t aware that anything had gone wrong.

“Prescribing guidelines clearly state that misuse of opioids and adverse effects are compelling reasons to discontinue opioids”, the study authors wrote.  Presumably, if doctors knew about the overdoses, they would have thought before authorizing their refills.