How should hospitals reduce opioid prescriptions? A major new VA study offers some clues
Alternative treatments may help lower use of long-term opioid therapy
April 30, 2018
Which government hospital a veteran in chronic pain walks into greatly determines whether that veteran will walk out the door with a prescription for opioids, according to a new study that provides valuable insight for hospitals looking to reduce their prescriptions of addictive painkillers.
The study examined prescribing rates at 176 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics across the country. Because the VA is a national health system, the hospitals might be assumed to have uniform prescribing patterns.
But, when looking at the treatment of more than 1 million veterans with chronic pain, the study found wide disparities in how often the veterans were started on long-term opioid therapy, depending on the hospital.
Hospitals that offered more access to alternative pain treatments, such as physical therapy, yoga or acupuncture, also had lower rates of starting patients on long-term opioid therapy. Hospitals that did not as consistently offer those services — or hospitals that also prescribed non-opioid medicines at high rates — were more likely to start patients on long-term opioid therapy.