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Are Disabled Medicare Recipients Overusing Opioids?

Study Highlights Risk Factors for Opioid Overprescribing

A study conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sheds new light on national patterns for opioid prescribing to US patients who are below age 65 and on disability. The survey included data from 2014 on some 3.5 million Medicare Part D recipients who were medically disabled and not suffering from cancer or end stage renal disease. 49% of the study population had received at least 1 prescription for opioids, and 28% were found to have been issued at least 6 prescriptions. Higher rates of prescribing were correlated with women, whites, and Native Americans, nonurban dwellers, and subjects aged 55 to 64 years. The findings appear in this month’s edition of the journal Medical Care.

The study concludes that local economic factors play a significant role in the high incidence of opioid prescribing observed in the population of nonelderly disabled Medicare recipients, these including lower median household income, and higher rates of unemployment. Study author Chao Zhou, PhD, observed "The opioid epidemic is part of a larger challenge primarily faced by white rural working-class Americans" and added that the findings support previous evidence that disabled persons in the Social Security Disability Insurance program are "a particularly vulnerable segment of this demographic."

Read more about the study findings.

The journal abstract may be read here.

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