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Study: Better Rx Practices Can Help Fight Opioid Epidemic

Improved opioid prescription practices are showing encouraging results in a new long-term study from the University of Iowa. (
Improved opioid prescription practices are showing encouraging results in a new long-term study from the University of Iowa. (
July 7, 2016

IOWA CITY, Iowa – More than 6 out of 10 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2014 involved an opioid, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In that same year, 165,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses.

However, a new study from the University of Iowa shows opioid prescriptions are declining, at least among patients within the Veterans Health Administration.

Dr. Hilary Mosher, clinical assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa Carver School of Medicine, is one of the authors of the study that looked at prescriptions between 2004 and 2011.

"So it went down in terms of the proportion of incident opioid recipients who went on to have long-term therapy, decreased from 20.4 percent to 18.3 percent, as sort of the reflection of practice of how these are prescribed," she states.

That includes what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends: more short-term opioid prescriptions no longer than 30 days instead of long-term programs of 90 days or more.

Mosher says the state of Iowa also uses a prescription-monitoring program that allows pharmacists to look for any over-prescription patterns with any given patient. She says while the numbers in the study are encouraging, many people still are in need of help.

"For people who already are habitually using these medications and not seeing the safety or the benefits that we might desire, is how do we help those patients to decrease their use and find more appropriate and safe and beneficial remedies for the pain and suffering that they experience," she stresses.

While helping people break their opioid addiction is necessary, Mosher says what's also needed is to provide other pain-management programs that have proven effective.

"Things like cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness approaches, alternate remedies including acupuncture and massage, physical therapy," she explains.

The study also found an increase of even shorter-term opioid prescriptions of seven days or less, which also could effectively manage pain but are less likely to lead to addiction.

Bob Kessler, Public News Service - IA