Doctors prescribe drugs despite past overdoses, study finds

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A new study finds that 91 percent of people who survive an overdose on prescription opioid painkillers continued to receive opioid prescriptions despite their history. 

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The study in the Annals of Internal Medicine indicates that better communication could be needed to let doctors know about patients’ histories of overdosing.  

A spike in overdose deaths from opioids is a growing problem that has kindled bipartisan attention in Washington. 

Dr. Jessica Gregg writes in an accompanying editorial in the journal that “it is likely that many of the prescribers in the study did not know about their patients’ overdoses.”

“There are currently no widespread systems in place, either within health plans or through governmental organizations, for notifying providers when overdoses occur,” she added. 

She called for the enactment of such systems. 

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an “alarming” 14 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths in just one year from 2013 to 2014. Heroin and prescription opioid painkillers such as oxycodone both contributed to the problem, with a total of 28,647 deaths from opioids in 2014. 

In October, President Obama traveled to West Virginia to spotlight the problem. 

The issue has received attention from both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. The spending bill for next year signed this month includes a $91 million boost for programs to fight opioid abuse, bringing funding to $123 million or nearly triple the previous total.