Linkage of VA and State Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Data to Examine Concurrent Opioid and Sedative-Hypnotic Prescriptions among Veterans

Kathleen Carlson, Tess A. Gilbert, Benjamin Morasco, Dagan Wright, Joshua Van Otterloo, Aldona Herrndorf, Lawrence J. Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the prevalence of concurrent Veterans Health Administration (VA) and non-VA prescriptions for opioids and sedative-hypnotic medications among post-9/11 veterans in Oregon. Data Sources: VA health care and prescription data were probabilistically linked with Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) data. Study Design: This retrospective cohort study examined concurrent prescriptions among n = 19,959 post-9/11 veterans, by year (2014–2016) and by patient demographic and clinical characteristics. Veterans were included in the cohort for years in which they received VA outpatient care; those receiving hospice or palliative care were excluded. Concurrent prescriptions were defined as ≥1 days of overlap between outpatient prescriptions for opioids and/or sedative-hypnotics (categorized as benzodiazepines vs. non-benzodiazepines). Principal Findings: Among 5,882 veterans who filled opioid or sedative-hypnotic prescriptions at VA pharmacies, 1,036 (17.6 percent) filled concurrent prescriptions from non-VA pharmacies. Within drug class, 15.1, 8.8, and 4.6 percent received concurrent VA and non-VA opioids, benzodiazepines, and non-benzodiazepines, respectively. Veteran demographics and clinical diagnoses were associated with the likelihood of concurrent prescriptions, as was enrollment in the Veterans Choice Program. Conclusions: A considerable proportion of post-9/11 veterans receiving VA care in Oregon filled concurrent prescriptions for opioids and sedative-hypnotics. Fragmentation of care may contribute to prescription drug overdose risk among veterans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHealth Services Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018



  • data linkage
  • dual use
  • opioid safety, medication safety
  • VA health care system
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

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