Preliminary Investigation of Pharmacist-Delivered, Direct-to-Provider Interventions to Reduce Co-Prescribing of Opioids and Benzodiazepines among a Medicare Population

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Jennifer M. Bingham,1,* Ann M. Taylor,2 Kevin P. Boesen,1 and David R. Axon2


Co-prescribing of opioids and benzodiazepines can lead to overdoses and mortality. This retrospective study analyzed prescription claims data collected in 2016. A national medication therapy management (MTM) program conducted prescriber-based outreach interventions for patients with concurrent opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions. The pharmacist’s direct-to-prescriber intervention was conducted following a targeted medication review. The pharmacist initiated interventions with the prescriber via facsimile to recommend discontinuation of concurrent use of these drugs. This study included 57,748 subjects who were predominantly female (67.83%) and aged ≥ 65 years (66.90%). Prescribers were most commonly located in the southern United States (46.88%). The top prescribed opioid medications were hydrocodone-acetaminophen (33.60%), tramadol (17.50%), and oxycodone-acetaminophen (15.66%). The top benzodiazepines prescribed concurrently with opioids were alprazolam (35.11%), clonazepam (21.16%), and lorazepam (20.09%). Based on the pharmacists’ recommendations, 37,990 (65.79%) resulted in a medication discontinuation (benzodiazepines 40.23%; opioids 59.77%) by the provider. There were significant differences in the proportion of opioids discontinued by subject age (p < 0.001) and prescriber geographical region (p = 0.0148). The top medications discontinued by the prescriber were hydrocodone-acetaminophen (18.86%), alprazolam (14.19%), and tramadol HCl (13.51%). This study provides initial evidence for pharmacist-supported, direct-to-prescriber programs as an effective medication safety strategy.

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