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Research Letter
February 2016

Distribution of Opioids by Different Types of Medicare Prescribers

Author Affiliations
  • 1Center for Innovation to Implementation (Ci2i), Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, California
  • 2Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research (PCOR), Stanford University, Stanford, California
  • 3Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California
  • 4Stanford Center for Biomedical Informatics Research, Stanford University, Stanford, California
JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(2):259-261. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.6662

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.

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