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Navathe AS, Liao JM, Yan XS, et al. Health Aff (Millwood). 2022;41:424-433.
Opioid overdose and misuse continues to be a major public health concern with numerous policy- and organization-level approaches to encourage appropriate clinician prescribing. A northern California health system studied the effects of three interventions (individual audit feedback, peer comparison, both combined) as compared to usual care at several emergency department and urgent care sites. Peer comparison and the combined interventions resulted in a significant decrease in pills per prescription.

Errors in medication management and administration are major threats to patient safety. This piece explores issues with opioid and nursing-sensitive medication safety as well as medication safety in older adults. Future research directions in medication safety are also discussed.

McGinty EE, Bicket MC, Seewald NJ, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2022;Epub Mar 15.
Prior research has found that unsafe opioid prescribing practices are common. This retrospective study explored the association between state opioid prescribing laws and trends in opioid and nonopioid pain treatment among commercially insured adults in the United States. Findings suggest that these laws were not associated with statistically significant changes in prescribing outcomes, but the authors note that some of these estimates were imprecise and may not be generalizable to non-commercially insured populations.
Watterson TL, Stone JA, Gilson A, et al. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2022;22:50.
The CancelRx system is a health information technology-based intervention intended to mitigate the challenges of communicating medication discontinuation. Using secondary data from the electronic health record (EHR) system of a midwestern academic health system, researchers found that implementing the CancelRx system resulted in a significant increase in successful medication discontinuations for controlled substances.

Institute for Safe Medication Practices. April 6, 2022. 

Drug diversion can result in patient harm due to reduced medication availability, impaired clinician performance, and loss of trust. This webinar discussed the impact of drug diversion at a system level and outlined steps an organization can take to minimize this risk through workplace health strategies and stewardship programs.

Fed Register. February 10, 2022;87: 7838-7840.

The 2016 Centers for Disease Control opioid guidelines have raised concerns as to their potential to contribute to patient harm. This announcement calls for comments from the field to inform and update current policy in response to safety issues that emerged as unintended consequences of the 2016 recommendation. Comments are due to be submitted by April 11, 2022.

ISMP Medication Safety Alert! Acute care edition. February 10, 2022:27(3):1-6.

Best practices evolve over time, given experience and evidence associated with their use. This article summarizes 3 new areas of focus included in current recommendations for sustaining medication safety. The new practices focus on improving the safety of oxytocin use, enhancing vaccine administration through bar coding, and implementing multifocal efforts to reduce high-alert medication errors. A survey accompanies the article to gather data on the presence of the new recommendations in the field. 
Liu Y, Becker A, Mattke S. J Healthc Qual. 2022;Epub Jan 27.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is increasingly used to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). This study found that providers or practices with higher quality measure scores of MAT continuity (percentage of patients with OUD who had at least 180 days of continuous treatment) had a lower risk of opioid-related adverse events among their patients.

This WebM&M features two cases involving patients undergoing surgical procedures who received perioperative opioid analgesics to aid in pain and sedation efforts and who experienced adverse events due to opioid stacking. The commentary provides evidence-based suggestions for optimal management of patients who are administered opioid therapy, including standardized sedation assessment, advanced patient monitoring strategies, appropriate use of naloxone, and non-opioid pain management strategies.

Hallvik SE, El Ibrahimi S, Johnston K, et al. Pain. 2022;163:83-90.
Opiates are a high-risk medication due to the potential for adverse events including misuse and overdose. This study examined whether dose reduction or discontinuation after high-dose chronic opioid therapy is associated with suicide, overdose, or other adverse events. In this cohort of Oregon Medicaid recipients, discontinuation increased the risk for suicide or opioid-related adverse events. Patients with stable or increasing doses had an increased risk of overdose.
Linzer M, Neprash HT, Brown RL, et al. Ann Fam Med. 2021;19:521-526.
Using data from the Healthy Work Place trial, this study explored characteristics associated with high clinician and patient trust. Findings suggest that trust is higher when clinicians perceived their organizational cultures as emphasizing quality, communication and information, cohesiveness, and value alignment between clinicians and leaders.

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Stratification Tool for Opioid Risk Mitigation (STORM) decision support system and targeted prevention program were designed to help mitigate risk factors for overdose and suicide among veterans who are prescribed opioids and/or with opioid use disorder (OUD) and are served by the VHA.1 Veterans, particularly those prescribed opioids, experience overdose and suicide events at roughly twice the rate of the general population.1,2

The STORM decision support system uses data extracted from VHA electronic medical records and predictive analytics to facilitate the identification of patients at high risk of experiencing overdose and suicide events. The STORM decision support system can also review risk factors for patients who are being considered for prescription opioid therapy. STORM prioritizes patients for monitoring and intervention according to their modeled risk and aids clinicians by displaying a patient’s risk factors and associated evidence-based risk mitigation interventions. Note that the target population does not include patients with OUD in medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Many patients with OUD and/or in prescription opioid therapy have complex medical and psychosocial needs (e.g., painful conditions, mental health challenges), resulting in interactions with multiple care providers. To address the complexity of a patient’s case, STORM aims to provide a holistic intervention that includes multiple care providers and accounts for multiple parts of the patient’s history and medical profile.3 Under the STORM-based targeted prevention program, an interdisciplinary team of clinicians, including those with expertise in pain and behavioral health, conduct case reviews for patients identified to be at the highest risk of overdose and/or suicide and implement treatment changes or share recommendations with the patients‘ providers.

The VHA completed a three-year randomized program evaluation of the implementation of the national STORM-based targeted prevention program. Preliminary results indicate that mandating that very high-risk patients receive an interdisciplinary review was associated with a decrease in all-cause mortality among identified patients in the 127 days after identification by the decision support system.4

The STORM decision support system and targeted prevention program were developed and implemented in the context of relatively high rates of opioid prescribing to veterans and overall rising opioid-involved overdose mortality in the U.S. population. In the last 10 years, overdose deaths have more than doubled in the United States.5 As one response to the problem, the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act requires the VHA to improve opioid therapy strategies and to ensure responsible prescribing practices. STORM is one of several VHA overdose prevention initiatives that include the distribution of naloxone, efforts to reduce opioid prescribing, and introduction of pain management clinical review and support teams.5

Joseph A. Stat News. November 22, 2021

The opioid epidemic has put regulatory and professional pressures on the tapering of pain medications that have had unintended consequences for patients resulting in harm. This news story discusses how one family used legal means to address systemic gaps and clinical missteps that resulted in patient suicide due to lack of appropriate pain control.
Townsend T, Cerdá M, Bohnert AS, et al. Health Aff (Millwood). 2021;40:1766-1775.
Misuse of prescription opioids represents a serious patient safety issue. Using commercial claims from 2014 - 2018, researchers examined the association between the 2016 CDC guidelines to reduce unsafe opioid prescribing and opioid dispensing for patients with four common chronic pain diagnoses. Findings indicate that the release of the 2016 guidelines was associated with reductions in the percentage of patients receiving opioids, average dose prescribed, percentage receiving high-dose prescriptions, number of days supplied, and the percentage of patients receiving concurrent opioid/benzodiazepine prescriptions. The authors observe that questions remain about how clinicians are tailoring opioid reductions using a patient-centered approach.

This case describes multiple emergency department (ED) encounters and hospitalizations experienced by a middle-aged woman with sickle cell crisis and a past history of multiple, long admissions related to her sickle cell disease. The multiple encounters highlight the challenges of opioid prescribing for patients with chronic, non-cancer pain.

Keister LA, Stecher C, Aronson B, et al. BMC Public Health. 2021;21:1518.
Constrained diagnostic situations in the emergency department (ED), such as crowding, can impact safe care. Based on multiple years of electronic health record data from one ED at a large U.S. hospital, researchers found that providers were significantly less likely to prescribe opioids during constrained diagnostic situations and less likely to prescribe opioids to high-risk patients or racial/ethnic minorities.
Chua K-P, Brummett CM, Conti RM, et al. Pediatrics. 2021;148:e2021051539.
Despite public policies and guidelines to reduce opioid prescribing, providers continue to overprescribe these medications to children, adolescents, and young adults. In this analysis of US retail pharmacy data, 3.5% of US children and young adults were dispensed at least one opioid prescription; nearly half of those included at least one factor indicating they were high risk. Consistent with prior research, dentists and surgeons were the most frequent prescribers, writing 61% of all opiate prescriptions.
Agnoli A, Xing G, Tancredi DJ, et al. JAMA. 2021;326:411-419.
Sudden discontinuation of opioids has been linked to increased patient harm. This observational study evaluated the link between tapering and overdose, and mental health crisis among patients who were receiving long-term opioid therapy. Patients who underwent dose tapering had an increased risk of overdose and mental health crisis compared to those who did not undergo dose tapering. 

Szalavitz M. Wired Magazine. August 11, 2021. 

The opioid epidemic has contributed to uncertainties for pain management patients that result in harm. This article discusses how an endometriosis patient was unable to get prescriptions to manage her pain due to misinformation generated through screening tools designed to identify opioid misuse and inform prescribing decisions.