Researchers have suggested that the opioid overdose epidemic1 is primarily driven by small groups of prolific prescribers and “corrupt pill mills.”2,3 For example, the California Workers’ Compensation Institute found that 1% of prescribers accounted for one-third of schedule II opioid prescriptions and 10% accounted for 80% of prescriptions.4 This propagates a message that opioid overprescribing is a problem of a small group of high-volume prescribers, while general use is likely safe and effective. Medicare data provide the opportunity to address the question of whether such prescribing patterns occur across a national population.
Chen JH, Humphreys K, Shah NH, Lembke A. Distribution of Opioids by Different Types of Medicare Prescribers. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(2):259-261. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.6662