From the Journals

Only 1.5% of individuals at high risk of opioid overdose receive naloxone



The vast majority of individuals at high risk for opioid overdose do not receive naloxone, despite numerous opportunities, according to Sarah Follman and associates from the University of Chicago.

In a retrospective study published in JAMA Network Open, the study authors analyzed data from individuals in the Truven Health MarketScan Research Database who had ICD-10 codes related to opioid use, misuse, dependence, and overdose. Data from Oct. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2016, were included; a total of 138,108 high-risk individuals were identified as interacting with the health care system nearly 1.2 million times (88,618 hospitalizations, 229,680 ED visits, 298,058 internal medicine visits, and 568,448 family practice visits).

Of the 138,108 individuals in the study, only 2,135 (1.5%) were prescribed naloxone during the study period. Patients who had prior diagnoses of both opioid misuse/dependence and overdose were significantly more likely to receive naloxone than were those who only had a history of opioid dependence (odds ratio, 2.32; 95% confidence interval, 1.98-2.72; P less than .001). In addition, having a history of overdose alone was associated with a decreased chance of receiving naloxone, compared with those with a history of opioid misuse alone (OR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.57-0.94; P = .01).

Other factors that significantly reduced the odds of receiving naloxone included being aged 30-44 years and being from the Midwest or West. Factors that reduced the odds include having received treatment for opioid use disorder, visiting a detoxification facility, receiving other substance use disorder treatment; and having received outpatient care from a pain specialist, psychologist, or surgeon.

“Most individuals at high risk of opioid overdose do not receive naloxone through direct prescribing,” Ms. Follman and associates wrote. “Clinicians can address this gap by regularly prescribing naloxone to eligible patients. To address barriers to prescribing, hospital systems and medical schools can support clinicians by improving education on screening and treating substance use disorders, clarifying legal concerns, and developing policies and protocols to guide implementation of increased prescribing. “Health care systems can also create or strengthen processes to encourage naloxone prescribing.”

No conflicts of interest were reported; one coauthor reported receiving a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

SOURCE: Follman S et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2019 May 3. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.3209.

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