STAT

While addiction crisis raged, many surgeons overprescribed opioids, analysis shows

Amid the addiction crisis, thousands of surgeons continued to hand out far more pills than needed for postoperative pain relief.

As opioid addiction and deadly overdoses escalated into an epidemic across the U.S., thousands of surgeons continued to hand out far more pills than needed for postoperative pain relief, according to a KHN-Johns Hopkins analysis of Medicare data.

Many doctors wrote prescriptions for dozens of opioid tablets after surgeries — even for operations that cause most patients relatively little pain, according to the analysis, done in collaboration with researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. It examined almost 350,000 prescriptions written for patients operated on by nearly 20,000 surgeons from 2011 to 2016 — the latest year for which data are available.

Some surgeons wrote prescriptions for more than 100 opioid pills in the week following the surgery, often with instructions to take one to two pills every four to six hours, as needed. The total amounts frequently exceeded current guidelines from several academic medical centers, which call for zero to 10 pills for many of the procedures in the analysis, and up to 30 for cardiac bypass surgery.

While hundreds of state and local lawsuits have been filed against opioid manufacturers, claiming they engaged in aggressive and misleading marketing of these addictive drugs, the role of physicians in contributing to a national tragedy has received less scrutiny. Research shows that a significant portion of people who become addicted to opioids started with a prescription after surgery.

Read more: Amazon looking to work directly with health plans and employers to sell prescription drugs, court documents say

In sheer numbers, opioid prescribing in the U.S. , but it, according to studies and other data.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from STAT

STAT2 min read
Purdue Pharma, Maker Of OxyContin And Other Drugs, Files For Bankruptcy
Facing thousands of lawsuits alleging that it helped spark the opioid addiction crisis, privately held Purdue Pharma announced it had filed for bankruptcy,
STAT4 min read
An FDA Advisory Panel Is Reviewing Aimmune’s Peanut Allergy Therapy. Here’s What’s Happening
STAT's @adamfeuerstein will be watching watching a live feed of today’s FDA advisory panel to discuss a peanut allergy treatment. Follow along for updates.
STAT3 min readSociety
Opinion: A Dangerous View: Why It’s A Mistake For Medical Schools To Ignore Social Justice
An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal called for getting back to basics in medical school and forgoing teaching on gun violence or other social issues. The author has it…