Generalized to all surgical and opioid prescriptions in the United States, that percentage would translate into more than 260,000 opioid prescriptions a year that are filled more than a month after being written, according to the study published online recently in JAMA Network Open .
“Our findings suggest that some patients use opioids from surgeons and dentists for a reason or during a time frame other than intended by the prescriber,” said lead study author Dr. Kao-Ping Chua. He is a pediatrician and member of the university’s Child Health Evaluation and Research Center and Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.
State laws on expiration periods for controlled substance prescriptions may be partly to blame, according to the researchers.
In 2019, 18 states permitted prescriptions for Schedule II opioids and other controlled substances — those with the highest risk of misuse — to be filled up to six months after writing, and another eight states allowed these drugs to be dispensed up to a year after the prescription.
“It’s perplexing that states would allow controlled substance prescriptions to be filled so long after they are written,” Chua said.
Tighter state laws could help prevent or reduce opioid abuse associated with delayed filling of prescriptions, he suggested.
The researchers pointed to Minnesota, which had a sharp drop in delayed dispensing after it introduced a law in July 2019 that prohibited opioid dispensing more than 30 days after a prescription was written.