Patient Care

Prescribing Naloxone for Patients on Long-Term Opioid Therapy


Clinical Question: Does naloxone co-prescription for patients on long-term opioids for pain prevent opioid-related adverse events?

Background: Unintentional opioid overdose is a major public health issue. Studies have shown that provision of naloxone to at-risk patients reduces mortality and improves survival. The CDC recommends considering naloxone prescription in high-risk patients. This study focused on patient education and prescription habits of providers rather than just making naloxone available.

Study Design: Non-randomized interventional study.

Setting: Six safety-net primary-care clinics in San Francisco.

Synopsis: The authors identified 1,985 adults on long-term opioid treatment, of which 759 were prescribed naloxone. Providers were encouraged to prescribe naloxone along with opioids. Patients were educated about use of the intranasal naloxone device. Outcomes included opioid-related emergency department visits and prescribed dosage. They noted that patients on a higher dose of opioids and with opioid-related ED visits in the prior 12 months were more likely to be prescribed naloxone. When compared to patients who were not prescribed naloxone, patients who received naloxone had 47% fewer ED visits per month in the first six months and 63% fewer ED visits over 12 months. Limitations include lack of randomization and being a single-center study.

Hospitalists can prioritize patients and consider providing naloxone prescription to reduce ED visits and perhaps readmissions. Further studies are needed focusing on patients who get discharged from the hospital.

Bottom Line: Naloxone prescription in patients on long-term opioid treatment may prevent opioid-related ED visits.

Citation: Coffin PO, Behar E, Rowe C, et al. Nonrandomized intervention study of naloxone coprescription for primary care patients receiving long-term opioid therapy for pain. Ann Intern Med. 2016;165(4):245-252.

Short Take

Mortality and Long-Acting Opiates

This retrospective cohort study raises questions about the safety of long-acting opioids for chronic noncancer pain. When compared with anticonvulsants or antidepressants, the adjusted hazard ratio was 1.64 for total mortality.

Citation: Ray W, Chung CP, Murray KT, Hall K, Stein CM. Prescription of long-acting opioids and mortality in patients with chronic noncancer pain. JAMA. 2016;315(22):2415-2423.

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