Temporal Trends in Opioid Prescribing Patterns among Oncologists in the Medicare Population

Vikram Jairam, Daniel X. Yang, Saamir Pasha, Pamela R. Soulos, Cary P. Gross, James B. Yu, Henry S. Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: In the wake of the US opioid epidemic, there have been efforts to curb opioid prescribing. However, it is unknown whether these efforts have affected prescribing among oncologists, whose patients often require opioids for symptom management. We investigated temporal patterns in opioid prescribing for Medicare beneficiaries among oncologists and nononcologists. Methods: We queried the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Part D prescriber dataset for all physicians between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2017. We used population-averaged multivariable negative binomial regression to estimate the association between time and per-provider opioid and gabapentinoid prescribing rate, defined as the annual number of drug claims (original prescriptions and refills) per beneficiary, among oncologists and nononcologists on a national and state level. Results: From 2013 to 2017, the national opioid-prescribing rate declined by 20.7% (P <. 001) among oncologists and 22.8% (P <. 001) among non oncologists. During this time frame, prescribing of gabapentin increased by 5.9% (P <. 001) and 23.1% (P <. 001) among oncologists and nononcologists, respectively. Among palliative care providers, opioid prescribe increased by 15.3% (P <. 001). During the 5-year period, 43 states experienced a decrease (P <. 05) in opioid prescribing among oncologists, and in 5 states, opioid prescribing decreased more among oncologists than nononcologists (P <. 05). Conclusions: Between 2013 and 2017, the opioid-prescribing rate statistically significantly decreased nationwide among oncologists and nononcologists, respectively. Given similar declines in opioid prescribing among oncologists and nononcologists, there is concern that opioid-prescribing guidelines intended for the noncancer population are being applied inappropriately to patients with cancer and cancer survivors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-281
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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