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JAMA Dermatol. 2018 Mar 1;154(3):317-322. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.5835.

Opioid Prescribing Patterns and Complications in the Dermatology Medicare Population.

Author information

Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts.
Department of Dermatology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.



The ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States has been fueled by prescription opioids. Increases in opioid-related deaths and complications mandate clinicians in all fields to scrutinize their prescribing patterns.


To characterize the current status and potential complications of opioid prescribing practices among dermatologists for Medicare beneficiaries.

Design, Setting, and Participants:

A cross-sectional study used Medicare Part D prescriber data to evaluate opioid prescriptions by dermatologists from January 1 to December 31, 2014. The number of prescribers, opioid claims, beneficiaries, and days supplied as well as the type of opioid and geographic location of prescribers were extracted and analyzed. The top 1% of dermatologists prescribing opioids were identified and compared with a random sample of the same size among the remaining dermatologists based on sex, geographic location, type of practice, and time in practice. A systematic literature review was conducted to estimate the outcome of opioid prescribing practices on the exposed population.

Main Outcome and Measures:

Practice characteristics, epidemiologic factors, and consequences of opioids prescribed by dermatologists.


Of the 12 537 dermatologists in the study, 5305 (42.3%) prescribed no opioid claims, 5408 (43.1%) prescribed 1 to 10 opioid claims, and 1824 (14.5%) prescribed more than 10 opioid claims. Among dermatologists prescribing at least 10 opioid claims, a mean of 1.0 opioid claims was given to each beneficiary, with a supply lasting a mean of 4.4 days. A total of 108 dermatologists (93.9%) in the top 1% of opioid prescribers (n = 115) work in a surgical practice. Estimates suggest that opioids prescribed by dermatologists could annually lead to 3877 to 7602 beneficiaries continuing to use opioids at 1 year and 1825 to 4209 continuing to use opioids at 3 years. A total of 9882 to 22 806 beneficiaries could experience gastrointestinal tract or central nervous system adverse effects and 588 to 999 could experience fractures.

Conclusions and Relevance:

Opioid prescribing among dermatologists is limited and concentrated in the surgical setting, but it may be associated with a substantial number of adverse events that serve as a reminder to emphasize nonopioid pain medications in the postoperative setting.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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