Rates of both prescription opioid overdoses and dispensing of prescription opioid pain relievers dropped substantially after the introduction of abuse-deterrent extended-release oxycodone HCI (OxyContin; Purdue Pharma), according to an article in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Marc R. Larochelle, MD, MPH, of the Harvard Medical School and Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues evaluated data from a large national U.S. health insurer on 31.3 million members from 2003–2012. The authors sought to analyze the association between the introduction of the abuse-deterrent oxycode HCI, the withdrawal of propoxyphene from the U.S. market due to concerns about cardiac toxic effects, total opioid dispensing, and estimated prescription opioid overdoses.

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The results indicated that total opioid dispensing dropped by 19% from the expected rate two years after these opioid market changes were introduced. The estimated overdose rate was also reduced by 20%, although the rate of heroin overdose increased by 23%.

Further efforts are needed to improve identification and treatment of individuals transitioning from prescription opioid to heroin abuse, along with additional changes via regulatory mandates or voluntary company actions to continue to curb opioid drug abuse, added the authors.

For more information visit JAMANetwork.com.