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Opioid prescribing patterns by drug type: The Pennsylvania experience

Brock K. Bakewell, MPH, Chaim Miller, BS, Matthew Sherman, BS, Asif M. Ilyas, MD, MBA


Objective: To explore the impact on opioid prescribing patterns and trends after implementing a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) in Pennsylvania from 2016 to 2020.

Design: A cross-sectional data analysis using deidentified data from Pennsylvania’s PDMP delivered by the Pennsylvania Department of Health was undertaken.

Setting: Data were collected from the entire state of Pennsylvania, and statistics were run at Rothman Orthopedic Institute Foundation for Opioid Research & Education.

Interventions: Evaluating the effect on opioid prescriptions after introduction of the PDMP.

Main outcome measure: In 2016, nearly 2 million opioid prescriptions were given to patients across the state. However, by the end of the study period in 2020, there was a 38 percent decrease in opioid prescriptions written.

Results: Beginning with Q3 2016, each subsequent quarter saw fewer opioids prescribed, decreasing on average by 3.4 ± 1.7 percent through Q1 2020. Specifically, over 700,000 fewer prescriptions were in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the third quarter in 2016. The opioids that were most frequently prescribed were oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine.

Conclusion: While fewer prescriptions were being prescribed overall, the breakdown of drug type being prescribed remained similar in 2020 compared to 2016. Fentanyl and hydrocodone saw the largest decrease between 2016 and 2020.



opioids; narcotics; prescribing; prescriptions; PDMP; Pennsylvania

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