CA Doctors Told of Opioid Patients’ Deaths

San Diego doctors who were told of their patients’ deaths were 7 percent less likely to start new patients on opioids and issued fewer high-dose prescriptions over the next three months.

The form letters from the San Diego County Medical Examiner were supportive but grim. “This is a courtesy communication to inform you that your patient (name) died on (date). Prescription drug overdose was either the primary cause of death or contributed to the death,” said the letters, sent to hundreds of doctors who had prescribed opioids to patients who later died. “… We hope that you will take this as an opportunity to join us in preventing future deaths from drug overdose.” The notices were a simple but unusual experiment, part of a growing research effort aimed at finding solutions to the opioid epidemic that is estimated to have killed almost 50,000 people from overdoses last year, reports the Washington Post.

The letters addressed an almost astonishing gap in the health-care system — the gulf between the care doctors provide and their knowledge about consequences for patients. Many doctors who prescribe painkillers may believe that addiction is a problem that happens to other doctors’ patients because they never learn about their own patients who died of an overdose. San Diego doctors who were told of their patients’ deaths were 7 percent less likely to start new patients on opioids and issued fewer high-dose prescriptions over the next three months, compared with those who did not receive a letter. In total, there was a 9.7 percent reduction in the total amount of opioids they prescribed, according to results published in the journal Science. Researchers at the University of Southern California worked with San Diego County’s chief deputy medical examiner on the project, is part of an emerging thread of changes that could affect physicians’ behavior, after years of top-down efforts to restrict or set guidelines on how opioids should be used or to track prescriptions.

from https://thecrimereport.org

CA Doctors Told of Opioid Patients’ Deaths

San Diego doctors who were told of their patients’ deaths were 7 percent less likely to start new patients on opioids and issued fewer high-dose prescriptions over the next three months.

The form letters from the San Diego County Medical Examiner were supportive but grim. “This is a courtesy communication to inform you that your patient (name) died on (date). Prescription drug overdose was either the primary cause of death or contributed to the death,” said the letters, sent to hundreds of doctors who had prescribed opioids to patients who later died. “… We hope that you will take this as an opportunity to join us in preventing future deaths from drug overdose.” The notices were a simple but unusual experiment, part of a growing research effort aimed at finding solutions to the opioid epidemic that is estimated to have killed almost 50,000 people from overdoses last year, reports the Washington Post.

The letters addressed an almost astonishing gap in the health-care system — the gulf between the care doctors provide and their knowledge about consequences for patients. Many doctors who prescribe painkillers may believe that addiction is a problem that happens to other doctors’ patients because they never learn about their own patients who died of an overdose. San Diego doctors who were told of their patients’ deaths were 7 percent less likely to start new patients on opioids and issued fewer high-dose prescriptions over the next three months, compared with those who did not receive a letter. In total, there was a 9.7 percent reduction in the total amount of opioids they prescribed, according to results published in the journal Science. Researchers at the University of Southern California worked with San Diego County’s chief deputy medical examiner on the project, is part of an emerging thread of changes that could affect physicians’ behavior, after years of top-down efforts to restrict or set guidelines on how opioids should be used or to track prescriptions.

from https://thecrimereport.org