Penn Team Opioid 'Sprained Ankle' Study Generates National Media Impact
A Penn study detailing wide variation in emergency department opioid prescribing for sprained ankles has generated widespread media pickup in newspapers, radio and major online news outlets.
Led by Penn Medicine emergency physicians and LDI Senior Fellows Kit Delgado and Jeanmarie Perrone, the analysis of ED opioid prescribing rates for the ankle condition were as high as 40% of all 2014-2015 visits in Arkansas and as low as 2.8% in North Dakota. The national prescribing median rate was 24.1%.
High news interest
The findings were of high interest to national and local news desks that have been chronicling the country's efforts to address the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdoses that kill 115 people a day.
The Washington Post published a major article profiling the study and ultimately disseminated it widely through its wire service to metro newspapers across the country. Within two days, the post article was republished in dozens of newspapers from the Portland Press Herald in Maine and the Watertown Daily Times in New York to the Gazette-Mail in West Virginia, the Post-Dispatch in St. Louis, the East Bay Times in California, The Oregonian in Portland, Oregon, and the Skagit Valley Herald in Washington State.
Across the country
Simultaneously NPR radio stations such as Arizona Public Radio and KUER Utah produced their own on-air and website text stories, and online outlets including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Kaiser Health News, Time magazine, US News & World Report, United Press International, and specialty news services like the Journalist's Resource at the Harvard Kennedy School, distributed their own stories.
Helping to make the broader implications of the study clear, the Penn researchers pointed out that 143,064 opioid tablets were prescribed for ankle patients in the ED operations they studied. They noted that "reducing the excess variation in the state-level prescription rates by bringing states with above-average prescribing rates to the median of 24.1% would have resulted in the prescribing of 18,260 fewer opioid tablets."
Another finding was that 5% of the studied opioid patients who were prescribed more than 30 tablets of oxycodone or equivalent transitioned to prolonged opioid use compared to 1% of those who were prescribed 10 tablets or less. This suggests that prescribing smaller amounts may lead to deceased transitions to prolonged opioid use.
Ongoing initiatives at Penn
The work is part of the continuing studies of Delgado, Perrone and other Penn experts focused on tightening opioid stewardship among ED physicians to reduce the potential for prolonged opioid use, potential misuse, and diversion of unused tablets.
Delgado, MD, MS is an Assistant Penn Professor of Emergency Medicine and a practicing trauma center emergency physician; Perrone, MD, is a Penn Professor of Emergency Medicine and Director of the Perelman School of Medicine Division of Medical Toxicology.