Reducing Opioid Analgesic Prescribing in Dentistry Through Prescribing Defaults: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial

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Pain medicine (Malden, Mass.)


OBJECTIVE: To determine the effect of a uniform, reduced, default dispense quantity for new opioid analgesic prescriptions on the quantity of opioids prescribed in dentistry practices. METHODS: We conducted a cluster-randomized controlled trial within a health system in the Bronx, NY, USA. We randomly assigned three dentistry sites to a 10-tablet default, a 5-tablet default, or no change (control). The primary outcome was the quantity of opioid analgesics prescribed in the new prescription. Secondary outcomes were opioid analgesic reorders and health service utilization within 30 days after the new prescription. We analyzed outcomes from 6 months before implementation through 18 months after implementation. RESULTS: Overall, 6,309 patients received a new prescription. Compared with the control site, patients at the 10-tablet-default site had a significantly larger change in prescriptions for 10 tablets or fewer (38.7 percentage points; confidence interval [CI]: 11.5 to 66.0), lower number of tablets prescribed (-3.3 tablets; CI: -5.9 to -0.7), and lower morphine milligram equivalents (MME) prescribed (-14.1 MME; CI: -27.8 to -0.4), which persisted in the 30 days after the new prescription despite a higher percentage of reorders (3.3 percentage points; CI: 0.2 to 6.4). Compared with the control site, patients at the 5-tablet-default site did not have a significant difference in any outcomes except for a significantly higher percentage of reorders (2.6 percentage points; CI: 0.2 to 4.9). CONCLUSIONS: Our findings further support the efficacy of strategies that lower default dispense quantities, although they indicate that caution is warranted in the selection of the default. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ID: NCT03030469.

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