There were 79.5 million prescriptions for opioid analgesics captured (39% of the estimated projection of 201.9 million opioid prescriptions dispensed in the US in 2009). Most prescriptions were for hydrocodone- and oxycodone-containing products (84.9%, 67.5 million) and issued for short treatment courses (19.1% for <2 weeks, 65.4% for 2-3 weeks). The percentage of prescriptions dispensed increased with age, from 0.7% in those aged 0 to 9 years to 28.3% in those 60 years and older. Of all opioid prescriptions, 11.7% (9.3 million) were for patients between 10 and 29 years old, while 45.7% (36.4 million) were for those between 40 and 59 years old. Overall, the main prescribers were primary care physicians (general practitioner/family medicine/osteopathic physicians) with 28.8% (22.9 million) of total prescriptions, followed by internists (14.6%, 11.6 million), dentists (8.0%, 6.4 million), and orthopedic surgeons (7.7%, 6.1 million). For patients aged 10 to 19 years, dentists were the main prescribers (30.8%, 0.7 million), followed by primary care (13.1%, 0.3 million) and emergency medicine physicians (12.3%, 0.3 million) (). All comparisons between specialties within an age group were significantly different from each other (P<.001), except general practitioners and emergency medicine physicians in the 0- to 9-year-old group (P=.34) and dentists and internists in the 30- to 39-year-old group (P=.06). For patients 40 years and older, primary care physicians were the main prescribers (30.4%, 17.9 million). On average, across all physician specialties included in this analysis, 56.4% (44.8 million) of opioid prescriptions were dispensed to patients who had already filled another opioid prescription within the past month ().
Percentage of Prescriptions Dispensed for Opioid Analgesics From Outpatient US Retail Pharmacies by Age and Physician Specialty, 2009
New vs Continuing or Switch/Add-on Opioid Prescriptions Dispensed by US Retail Pharmacies as a Function of Specialty, 2009