Opioid analgesics have a way of getting physicians as well as patients into trouble.

These painkillers account for more medical-malpractice claims related to drug errors than any other drug class, according to a new study released today by the medical liability insurer Coverys that illustrates the far-reaching effects of the opioid abuse epidemic. The company analyzed more than 10,000 closed malpractice claims from 2012 through 2016.

Twenty-four percent of medication-related claims involved opioids, even though these drugs accounted for only about 5% of prescription drugs dispensed in 2016, according to published data from QuintilesIMS, a firm that tracks pharmaceutical activity. The next riskiest drug class identified by Coverys was anticoagulants, at 14% of medication-related claims.

In claims involving opioids, “overdoses are primarily what we see,” said study co-author Robert Hanscom, vice president of business analytics at Coverys. Some claimants also alleged that they became addicted to painkillers. In more than a third of the opioid-related claims, the mistake occurred during the follow-up phase of prescribing.

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PDMPs have many limitations in their current format, including complex access issues, timeliness, and whether the data are presented to the physician automatically or require physician effort to retrieve.

ACEP - Annals of Emergency Medicine – 525

Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) are now active in most states to assist clinicians in identifying potential controlled drug misuse, diversion, or excessive prescribing. Little is still known about the ways in which they are incorporated into workflow and clinical decision making, what barriers continue to exist, and how clinicians are sharing PDMP results with their patients.

Design
Qualitative data were collected through online focus groups and telephone interviews.

Setting
Clinicians from pain management, emergency and family medicine, psychiatry/behavioral health, rehabilitation medicine, internal medicine and dentistry participated.

Patients
Thirty-five clinicians from nine states participated.

Methods
We conducted two online focus groups and seven telephone interviews. A multidisciplinary team then used a grounded theory approach coupled with an immersion–crystallization strategy for identifying key themes in the resulting transcripts.

Results
Some participants, mainly from pain clinics, reported checking the PDMP with every patient, every time. Others checked only for new patients, for new opioid prescriptions, or for patients for whom they suspected abuse. Participants described varied approaches to sharing PDMP information with patients, including openly discussing potential addiction or safety concerns, avoiding discussion altogether, and approaching discussion confrontationally. Participants described patient anger or denial as a common response and noted the role of patient satisfaction surveys as an influence on prescribing.

Conclusion
Routines for accessing PDMP data and how clinicians respond to it vary widely. As PDMP use becomes more widespread, it will be important to understand what approaches are most effective for identifying and addressing unsafe medication use.

Pain Medicine, Volume 15, Issue 7, July 2014 
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