HealthDay News — The percentage of individuals prescribed an opioid is higher in rural than urban areas, according to research published in the Jan. 18 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Macarena C. García, Dr.P.H., from the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues examined trends from January 2014 to March 2017 using deidentified data from the Athenahealth electronic health record system. The authors sought to assess opioid prescribing rates among 31,422 primary care providers in the United States. Variation in prescribing practices was examined among six urban-rural classification categories of counties before and after the March 2016 release of the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.

The researchers found that the chance of receiving an opioid prescription was 87 percent higher for patients in noncore (the most rural) counties than for those in large central metropolitan counties. The odds of receiving an opioid prescription decreased significantly after March 2016 across all six county groups. This decrease followed a flat trend in micropolitan and large central metropolitan county groups in the preceding period and continued previous downward trends in the other county groups.

“As less densely populated areas appear to indicate both substantial progress in decreasing opioid prescribing and ongoing need for reduction, community health care practices and intervention programs must continue to be tailored to community characteristics,” the authors write.

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