Journal Article

A contemporary medicolegal analysis of outpatient medication management in chronic pain.

Abrecht CR; Brovman EY; Greenberg P; Song E; Rathmell JP; Urman RD.

Opioid prescriptions for chronic, noncancer pain have contributed to the national opioid epidemic. Malpractice claims can identify trends in patient hazards and have been previously employed to better elucidate the opioid risks. This retrospective observational study examined all closed claims from a large malpractice carrier levied against pain medicine physicians. The resulting sample included 37 cases. Researchers found that improper medication management was the most common reason for a claim and only 27% resulted in payment. No claim filed when a provider terminated opioid therapy resulted in payment. Most of the patients who died in this study had cardiac, pulmonary, or psychiatric comorbidities. The authors recommend adhering to opioid prescribing guidelines, communicating opioid prescribing risks to patients, documenting those conversations, and monitoring for diversion as strategies to reduce malpractice claims. An Annual Perspective summarized opioid-related patient safety research.