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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In 2012, both New York and Tennessee required prescribers to check their state’s PDMP before prescribing painkillers.

The results one year later:
New York realized a 75% drop and Tennessee a 36% drop in patients who were seeing multiple prescribers to obtain the same drugs.

PDMP [National] Center of Excellence at Brandeis U, 2014

The abuse of opioid pain medication has a devastating impact on public health and safety in this country, killing 46 people every day… Prescription Drug poisoning deaths – now over 30,000/yr – outnumber deaths from motor vehicle crashes.

National Center for Health Statistics/CDC

David is Prescription Advisory’s Chief Marketing Officer. Software startups are his passion.

He also serves as the Director of Startup Grind Princeton and a mentor for the Princeton University eLab.

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