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October 14, 2019

Penn Medicine's New Jersey docs prescribed 22% fewer opioid pills with new law, alert system

Opioids Prescriptions
New Jersey opioids Penn Medicine Flickr Creative Commons

Opioid prescriptions decreased by 30% in New Jersey compared to 8% in Pennsylvania, which revealed a 22% decline in opioid dose per prescription over a two-year period, according to a new study by Penn Medicine.

The number of opioid pills prescribed by Penn Medicine's New Jersey doctors with declined 22% after the state passed a law limiting prescriptions to a five-day supply for new opioid prescriptions and the health system implemented a special alert to notify physicians when an opioid prescription limit has been reached. 

New Jersey passed the law in 2017 that limited opioid prescriptions to five-day supplies for new prescriptions. Penn Medicine followed up by instituting the special electronic health alert system, known as an EMR.

Pennsylvania currently has a seven-day limit for new prescriptions, but it does not apply to outpatient facilities. 

The EMR system requires prescribers to acknowledge the alert before refilling the prescription. 

Researchers analyzed patient data from the Penn Data Analytics Center covering a two-year period to determine the effectiveness of the new systems in reducing the volume of opioids prescribed to patients. The results were published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine

Researchers found was a significant decline in the amount of prescribed opioid dosages in New Jersey compared to Pennsylvania during the same time period. The median dosage decreased from 225 milligrams of morphine to 150 milligrams, and the median tablet dosage decreased from 30 to 20 tablets.

Researchers noted the data does not necessarily reveal the effectiveness of the law implemented, but rather the impact of the EMR intervention itself.

There were 668 new prescriptions during the two-year period across 10 practices in New Jersey. Pennsylvania was used as a control with 4,386 new prescriptions across 42 practices.

Researchers accounted for prescriptions for oxycodone, morphine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, codeine, and tramadol.

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