Opioid-benzo overlap higher in patients using multiple health systems

Researchers have found that patients with drug coverage through multiple health care systems are more likely to experience an overlap in opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions.

Researchers have found that patients with drug coverage through multiple health care systems are more likely to experience an overlap in opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions. The danger of using these two types of drugs concomitantly is recognized and acknowledged in the medical community, but investigators say that having two or more providers creates an opportunity for simultaneous opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions to slip through the cracks. The team from the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System examined records for 368,891 beneficiaries of both VA and Medicare Part D programs who filled two or more opioid prescriptions within 15 days during 2013. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) alone filled the orders for 18.3% of the patients, and Medicare was the sole source for 30.3%. However, 51.4% received prescriptions from both plans. When that happened, the investigators reported in Annals of Internal Medicine, the risk of overlapping opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions rose significantly. Researcher Walid Gellad, MD, MPH, noted, however, that the study was conducted before widespread implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs by states and "robust" use of the databases throughout the VA system. "It remains to be seen whether PDMPs can help limit these overlaps within VA," Gellad said.