States with policies in place to reduce opioid prescribing saw a reduction in the number of child opioid poisonings, according to a new analysis published in JAMA Pediatrics.
The findings aren’t rocket science, but they do demonstrate how adding restrictions on opioid prescribing as a way to curb the nation’s opioid crisis can benefit more than the person for whom the highly addictive pills were intended.
The study reviewed more than 338,000 pediatric poisonings from prescription opioids from 2005 to 2017. Most occurred in children 4 and younger (generally unintentional) and teenagers ages 15-19 (intentional). Only 25 states had opioid prescribing guidelines by 2017.
Researchers found that the number of poisonings didn’t go down the instant prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) were implemented, but they did drop significantly one month after the laws went into effect. PDMPs included laws that limited the number of opioids that can be prescribed at specific sites or required prescribers to be trained in substance abuse.
While the impact of the program’s effect on pediatric poisonings flattened out after about a month, PDMPs and pain clinic legislation have helped reduce the number of adult overdose deaths. For example, Florida no longer allows doctors’ offices to dispense opioids, which led to a 50% drop in overdose deaths in 2012, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.
“This isn’t to say PDMPs are a panacea that is going to solve the opioid epidemic, but it does show that these policies largely drafted for adult patients can have effects on pediatric patients,” lead researcher Michael S. Toce, MD, MS, of Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts told Medpage Today.
Lawyers in Beasley Allen’s Mass Torts Section are representing local governments holding opioid companies accountable for overdose deaths and economic damages in their communities caused by this crisis.