Nearly 30% of all opioid prescriptions lack medical explanation

The results of a new study indicate that there is no documented reason behind almost 30% of all opioids prescribed in U.S. clinics or doctors' offices. According to the research, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, opioids were prescribed in nearly 809 million outpatient visits from 2006 through 2015.

The results of a new study indicate that there is no documented reason behind almost 30% of all opioids prescribed in U.S. clinics or doctors' offices. According to the research, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, opioids were prescribed in nearly 809 million outpatient visits from 2006 through 2015. Of those, two-thirds of the prescriptions were intended to treat non-cancer pain, while 5% were for cancer-related pain. But the remaining 28.5% of prescriptions had no record of pain symptoms or a pain-related condition, the study found. "For these visits, it is unclear why a physician chose to prescribe an opioid or whether opioid therapy is justified," said Tisamarie B. Sherry, lead author of the study and an associate physician policy researcher at RAND Corp. "The reasons for this could be truly inappropriate prescribing of opioids or merely lax documentation." The researchers looked at data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey over a 10-year period and found that the most common diagnoses at doctor visits lacking medical justification included high blood pressure, high cholesterol, opioid dependence, and "other followup examination."