Opioid prescriptions from surgeons still average 44 pills, suggesting efforts to right-size prescribing are still needed

Post-surgery pain relief has shifted away from opioid-containing medications over the past seven years, but the downward trend has slowed since 2020, a new study shows.

Overall, the rate of surgery-related opioid prescriptions dropped by 36% from 2016 to the end of 2022, and the average amount of opioids in those prescriptions dropped by 46%, the study of pharmacy data finds.

Dr. Kao-Ping Chua spoke with U-M’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation about what the data shows and how prescribers/prescriptions could be impacted.

In addition to Chua and Zhang, the study’s authors include OPEN co-directors Jennifer Waljee, M.D., M.P.H., M.S. and Chad Brummett, M.D., as well as Thuy D. Nguyen Ph.D., Amy S. Bohnert Ph.D., and Mark Bicket, M.D., Ph.D. All except Zhang are members of the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, and Brummett and Bohnert co-direct the U-M Opioid Research Institute.