• Patterns of opioid prescribing in emergency departments during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Lurie, Tucker; Bonnin, Naomi; Rea, Jeffrey; Tuteja, Gurshawn; Dezman, Zachary; Wilkerson, R Gentry; Buganu, Adelina; Chasm, Rose; Haase, Daniel J; Tran, Quincy K (Elsevier, 2022-03-26)
      Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic was superimposed upon an ongoing epidemic of opioid use disorder and overdose deaths. Although the trend of opioid prescription patterns (OPP) had decreased in response to public health efforts before the pandemic, little is known about the OPP from emergency department (ED) clinicians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: We conducted a pre-post study of adult patients who were discharged from 13 EDs and one urgent care within our academic medical system between 01/01/2019 and 09/30/2020 using an interrupted time series (ITS) approach. Patient characteristics and prescription data were extracted from the single unified electronic medical record across all study sites. Prescriptions of opioids were converted into morphine equivalent dose (MED). We compared the “Covid-19 Pandemic” period (C19, 03/29/2020–9/30/2020) and the “Pre-Pandemic” period (PP, 1/19/2020–03/28/2020). We used a multivariate logistic regression to assess clinical factors associated with opioid prescriptions. Results: We analyzed 361,794 ED visits by adult patients, including 259,242 (72%) PP and 102,552 (28%) C19 visits. Demographic information and percentages of patients receiving opioid prescriptions were similar in both groups. The median [IQR] MED per prescription was higher for C19 patients (70 [56–90]) than for PP patients (60 [60–90], P < 0.001). ITS demonstrated a significant trend toward higher MED prescription per ED visit during the pandemic (coefficient 0.11, 95% CI 0.05–0.16, P = 0.002). A few factors, that were associated with lower likelihood of opioid prescriptions before the pandemic, became non-significant during the pandemic. Conclusion: Our study demonstrated that emergency clinicians increased the prescribed amount of opioids per prescription during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the pre-pandemic period. Etiologies for this finding could include lack of access to primary care and other specialties during the pandemic, or lower volumes allowing for emergency clinicians to identify who is safe to be prescribed opioids. © 2022 Elsevier Inc.