The rate of opioid prescriptions for patients who have had surgery is on the decline, according to a new study. The rate of decline slowed during the pandemic, researchers found.
The findings are important because opioids prescribed after surgery sometimes lead to intentional opioid misuse, HealthDay reports.
Researchers at the University of Michigan analyzed entries between 2016 and 2022 from a U.S. database that comprises 92% of all retail pharmacy prescriptions written during those years. They found surgery-linked opioid prescriptions declines by 36% during that period. The average amount of opioids prescribed decreased by 46%. Taken together, this means the overall amount of opioids prescribed after surgery decreased by 66% during those years, the researchers said. Most of the decline occurred between 2016 and 2019.
Heart and eye surgeons made the biggest cuts to opioid prescriptions, but rates remained relatively high among orthopedic surgeons.
The study found despite large reductions in opioid prescribing, the average size of opioid prescriptions from surgeons was 44 pills in December 2022 – more than patients typically need.
“The goal should be to ensure that opioids are only prescribed when necessary, and that the amount of opioids prescribed matches the amount that patients need,” said study lead author Jason Zhang.