Assessment of Opioid Prescribing Patterns in a Large Network of US Community Health Centers, 2009 to 2018

John Muench, Katie Fankhauser, Robert W. Voss, Nathalie Huguet, Daniel M. Hartung, Jean O'Malley, Steffani R. Bailey, Stuart Cowburn, Dagan Wright, Gordon Barker, Maria Ukhanova, Irina Chamine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Importance: Understanding opioid prescribing patterns in community health centers (CHCs) that disproportionately serve low-income patients may help to guide strategies to reduce opioid-related harms. Objective: To assess opioid prescribing patterns between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2018, in a network of safety-net clinics serving high-risk patients. Design, Setting, and Participants: Cross-sectional study of 3227459 opioid prescriptions abstracted from the electronic health records of 2129097 unique primary care patients treated from 2009 through 2018 at a network of CHCs that included 449 clinic sites in 17 states. All age groups were included in the analysis. Main Outcomes and Measures: The following measures were described at the population level for each study year: (1) percentage of patients with at least 1 prescription for an opioid by age and sex, (2) number of opioid prescriptions per 100 patients, (3) number of long-acting opioid prescriptions per 100 patients, (4) mean annual morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs) per patient, (5) mean MME per prescription, (6) number of chronic opioid users, and (7) mean of high-dose opioid users. Results: The study population included 2129097 patients (1158413 women [54.4%]) with a mean (SD) age of 32.2 (21.1) years and a total of 3227459 opioid prescriptions. The percentage of patients receiving at least 1 opioid prescription in a calendar year declined 67.4% from 15.9% in 2009 to 5.2% in 2018. Over the 10-year study period, a greater percentage of women received a prescription (13.1%) compared with men (10.9%), and a greater percentage of non-Hispanic White patients (18.1%) received an opioid prescription compared with non-Hispanic Black patients (9.5%), non-Hispanic patients who self-identified as other races (8.0%), and Hispanic patients (6.9%). The number of opioid prescriptions for every 100 patients decreased 73.7% from 110.8 in 2009 to 29.1 in 2018. The number of long-acting opioids for every 100 patients decreased 85.5% during the same period, from 22.0 to 3.2. The MMEs per patient decreased from 1682.7 in 2009 to 243.1 in 2018, a decline of 85.6%. Conclusions and Relevance: In this cross-sectional study, the opioid prescribing rate in 2009 in the CHC network was higher than national population estimates but began to decline earlier and more precipitously. This finding likely reflects harm mitigation policies and efforts at federal, state, and clinic levels and strong clinical quality improvement strategies within the CHCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2013431
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 18 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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