Study: Half of pediatric opioid prescriptions are ‘high risk’

Health

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Four million opioid prescriptions were dispensed to US patients between the ages of 0-21 in 2019. According to a recent study published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 46% were high risk.

These prescriptions were labeled “high risk” because of potential adverse outcomes like overdosing. Dentists and surgeons wrote 61% of prescriptions. 

The study also shows a small group of prescribers in the top 5% of prescriptions account for half of all opioid prescriptions for children and young adults and half of high-risk prescriptions. Prescriptions that exceeded a recommended supply or dose or included a drug or combination of drugs not recommended for children were considered high risk. 

“Our study suggests that children and young adults are frequently exposed to unsafe opioid prescriptions, increasing their risk of overdose, misuse, and addiction,” said lead author Kao-Ping Chua, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatrician and researcher at the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and the Susan B. Meister Child Health Evaluation and Research Center.

The most common types of high-risk opioid prescriptions were those for acute pain and that went beyond three or seven days. Approximately 1 in 6 opioid prescriptions dispensed to young children were for codeine or tramadol, both suggested against in this age group.

Authors of the study hope this research could lead to considering alternatives when prescribing pain medicine, and suggest insurers could refuse to cover codeine or tramadol prescriptions for young children.

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