Survey suggests US doctors are changing their prescribing habits for opioid drugs

Most primary care physicians are aware of the risks associated with opioid drugs and many are less likely to prescribe opioids now than a year ago, according to a survey of US doctors.

Results of the poll of 420 internists, family physicians and general practitioners, conducted in February 2014, are reported in a letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine

Nine out of ten respondents said they considered prescription drug abuse to be a “big” or “moderate” problem in their communities and nearly as many (85%) reported that opioids are overused in clinical practice.

Most respondents reported being “very” or “moderately” concerned about potential adverse outcomes of opioid drug use, such as addiction, deaths and motor vehicle accidents. Furthermore, most of those questioned reported high frequencies of adverse events, even when prescription opioids are used as directed.

Approximately half of the respondents said they were less likely to prescribe opioids compared with a year ago. Most (88%) said they were confident in their clinical skills related to opioid prescribing, while 49% were “very” or “moderately” comfortable using these drugs for chronic non-cancer pain.

The study authors say it is crucial to understand physicians’ prescribing patterns and perceptions, given the increasing use of opioid drugs and their attendant morbidity and mortality.

“Our findings suggest that primary care providers have become aware of the scope of the prescription opioid crisis and are responding in ways that are important, including reducing their overreliance on these medicines,” says lead author G Caleb Alexander, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland.


[1] Hwang CS, Turner LW, Kruszewski SP et al. Prescription drug abuse: A national survey of primary care physicians. JAMA Int Med 2014. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed/2014.6520.

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The Pharmaceutical Journal, Survey suggests US doctors are changing their prescribing habits for opioid drugs;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20067354

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