Lost Chances to Treat Overdose Survivors Documented in New Medicare Study

Could this study be used to rationalize/justify less prescribing of opioids to folks on Medicare? There are 65 million people on Medicare of which 9 million are on Medicare Disability. So about 14% of Medicare folks are disabled. The 137,000 sample was ~ 0.2% of the Medicare population. The article states that ~ 30% of the sample was Medicare folks on disability or ~ 41,100.  If the Medicare disabled were fairly represented in the population sample, there would have been ~ 274 folks.

Could the design of this study intentionally have 150 times the percentage of disabled Medicare folks than is typical of the Medicare population as a whole?

I keep reading this article like U.S. government researchers found 53% of overdose survivors received opioid painkillers – Does this mean that they were prescribed FDA opioids are bought illegal opioids on the street?

About 80% of them had been treated for acute or chronic pain, and nearly half had prescriptions for opioids before the overdose  Does this mean that 20%  had never been prescribed FDA opioids and little more than HALF had been using STREET OPIOIDS?

The word “prescriptions” was only used THREE TIMES IN THE ENTIRE ARTICLE! The word “PAIN” was only used FOUR TIMES IN THE ENTIRE ARTICLE!

Lost Chances to Treat Overdose Survivors Documented in New Medicare Study


Findings also highlight the difficulty of managing chronic pain

A new study documents lost opportunities to treat drug overdose survivors covered by the Medicare program — and illustrates the difficulty of managing chronic pain.

Overdose survivors “should be at the front of the line for the full range of medications and counseling and support,” said Brian Hurley, MD, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, who was not involved in the research.

Instead, those on Medicare who survived a drug overdose in 2020 were much more likely to later receive opioid painkillers than any medication to treat addiction — and some went on to die of an overdose, according to the study findings in JAMA Internal Medicine

U.S. government researchers found 53% of overdose survivors received opioid painkillers while 4% received treatments such as buprenorphine. Only 6% filled prescriptions for the overdose antidote naloxone. Within a year of their overdose, 17% experienced a second nonfatal overdose and 1% died of an overdose.

The researchers looked at nearly 137,000 Medicare beneficiaries who survived an overdose in 2020, when the emergence of COVID-19 scrambled drug treatment efforts.

The group included about 30% who qualified for Medicare because of a disability rather than their age. About 80% of them had been treated for acute or chronic pain, and nearly half had prescriptions for opioids before the overdose.

In some situations, it might be appropriate to continue to prescribe opioids after an overdose, but “these patients should be closely monitored, provided naloxone,” and have plans in place to reduce overdose risk, said lead author Capt. Christopher Jones, PharmD, DrPH of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Gaps in treatment for overdose survivors exist throughout the U.S. healthcare system and predate the pandemic, said Michael Barnett, MD, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who was not involved in the new study, but found similar results among Medicare patients from 2016-2019.

“The health system is very poor at connecting people to life-saving medication after they overdose,” Barnett said. “It’s a health system problem. And it’s also a problem of stigma and public education that many people may not be interested in or may not trust medications for opioid use disorder.”

In 2020, Medicare expanded coverage to include methadone to address a longstanding treatment gap. Methadone is the oldest, and experts say, the most effective of the three approved medications used to treat opioid addiction. It eases cravings without an intense high, allowing patients to rebuild their lives.

Medicare still does not cover residential addiction treatment, another gap that should be closed, Hurley said.

4 Responses

  1. U know,,,”they have lied from the get go,,I never trust a article put out purposedly to deny us meds,,,and I agree,this will be used to justify their lie and futher take our meds away!!!!maryw

  2. There’s also no mention of whether alcohol was also involved in the OD’s. That poison is legal in this country. Alcohol has caused more deaths and human heartbreak than any opioids e. The hypocrisy of this government is unbelievable. We must never forget that. Shove that in their faces. Polypharmacy is also a thing. But they don’t test and report what type of substances were involved. This is such BS! I’m quite sure that the people who did overdose were sick and fed up with being broke and suffering/alone. But we’ll never know, will we? They can’t tell us but it’s okay to assume that they were abusing their pain meds? Gee, nothing wrong with this picture

  3. There’s a buttload of misleading terms and information in that article. Holy cow!! 80% were treated for acute or chronic pain, but it doesn’t say with opioids. Then, as you pointed out, it says that less than half had an opioid prescription before the OD. So, yep, that WOULD then mean over half got them illicitly. And, it also assumes that ODs mean that someone has an OUD! Uhh, it’s far more likely that age and polypharmacy are at fault. That, and accidents, too. So, it was an unsubstantiated and ridiculous jump. JFC! Propaganda at its finest.

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