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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Michigan: Opioid Doctor and Pharmacy “Shoppers” May also Shop at Home

As states crack down on doctor and pharmacy shopping by people who misuse opioids, a University of Michigan study reveals how often those individuals may still be able to find opioids to misuse in family medicine cabinets.

For every 200 patients prescribed opioids in 2016, one had a family member whose opioid-misuse problem led them to seek the drugs from multiple prescribers and fill prescriptions at multiple pharmacies to avoid detection. If these family members have access to the patient’s opioids, this could increase their risk of misuse and possibly overdose.  

The new research highlights the need to decrease the amount of opioid medication available for this kind of diversion, by avoiding unnecessary opioid prescribing in the first place, and the importance of helping patients understand safe storage and disposal practices to prevent misuse by family members.

Of 1.4 million opioid prescriptions for 554,000 patients, 0.6% were filled when a family member met criteria for doctor and pharmacy shopping. Because so many Americans receive opioid prescriptions each year, even a modest percentage implies that 1.2 million of the 210 million opioid prescriptions in 2016 may have been dispensed to people who have family members with doctor and pharmacy shopping behavior.

Study authors from the University of Michigan include Dr. Kao-Ping Chua, assistant professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases; Dr. Amy Bohnert, associate professor of psychiatry; Dr. Chad Brummett, associate professor of anesthesiology; Dr. Rebecca Haffajee, assistant professor of health management and policy; and Dr. Lisa Prosser, professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases and health management and policy. Dr. Rena Conti of Boston University also co-authored the study.

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