Dental Opioid Prescriptions Increased During COVID-19, Pausing Trends in Reduction

A recent cross-sectional analysis of IQVIA Longitudinal Prescription Data reveals a concerning increase in dental opioid prescribing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study, covering the period from 2016 to 2022, initially showed a 45% decrease in dental opioid prescriptions. However, during the pandemic, this positive trend slowed, with a 31.4% surge in dental opioid dispensing in June 2020. The monthly decline rate, which had been -3.9% before the pandemic, slowed to -2.1%. Had pre-pandemic trends persisted, an estimated 6.1 million fewer opioid prescriptions from dentists would have been dispensed between June 2020 and December 2022. The increase varied by region and insurance type, with the Northeast experiencing a 69.2% rise compared to pre-pandemic predictions. Medicaid participants also saw a 57% higher rate of opioid prescribing than privately insured individuals. Concerns arise as two-thirds of dental opioid prescriptions are for tooth extraction, a procedure for which nonopioids are equally effective and safer. The study underscores the importance of continued efforts in dental opioid stewardship.

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