Majority of patients discharged to skilled nursing facilities prescribed opioids

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A total of 70 percent of patients discharged from a hospital to skilled nursing facilities were prescribed an opioid, a recent Oregon State University College of Pharmacy study found.

Of those patients, 68 percent were prescribed oxycodone, which is 1.5 times stronger than morphine. More than half of the prescriptions had a daily morphine milligram equivalent of 90 or higher. This is a level the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says should be carefully justified or avoided.

Researchers, in collaboration with Oregon Health and Science University and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, examined over one year 4,374 hospital patients who were discharged to a skilled nursing facility.

In addition to a high number of opioid prescriptions, researchers discovered 61 percent of patients who were prescribed an opioid were older than 65, and some of the patients were frail and suffered from cognitive impairment.

“Being a surgical patient, being female, having a diagnosis of cancer or chronic pain, and receiving an opioid on the first day of hospital admission were all independently associated with the likelihood of receiving an opioid prescription upon discharge to a skilled nursing facility,” Jon Furuno, the study’s author, said. “For patients or residents in those facilities, opioid risks are often compounded by the fact many of them are taking multiple drugs for multiple conditions.”

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