Association of Opioid Utilization Management With Prescribing and Overdose

Martin S. Andersen, Vincent Lorenz, Anurag Pant, Jeremy W. Bray, G. Caleb Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: Deaths from prescription opioids have reached epidemic levels in the United States, yet little is known about how insurers’ coverage policies may affect rates of fatal and nonfatal overdose among individuals filling an opioid prescription. STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study using 2010-2016 Medicare claims data for beneficiaries with 1 or more filled prescriptions for a Schedule II opioid. METHODS: Outcomes were opioid volume dispensed in morphine milligram equivalents (MME), number of days supplied, and number of pills dispensed on each prescription and emergency department or inpatient stay associated with an opioid overdose during a prescription or within 7 days of the end of the prescription. RESULTS: A total of 7.03 million prescriptions for Schedule II opioids were dispensed over 1.87 million Part D beneficiary-years. The 7.03 million opioid prescriptions were associated with 8.5 opioid overdoses per 10,000 prescriptions. Prior authorization was associated with larger opioid volumes per prescription (103.6 MME; 95% CI, 36.2-171.0). Step therapy was associated with a greater number of days supplied (0.62 days; 95% CI, 0.10-1.13) and more pills dispensed (6.12 pills; 95% CI, 2.17-10.1). Quantity limits were associated with smaller opioid volumes (24.3 MME; 95% CI, 12.3-36.3) and fewer pills dispensed (2.35 pills; 95% CI, 1.77-2.93). In adjusted models, beneficiaries filling an opioid requiring prior authorization experienced 3.3 fewer overdoses per 10,000 prescriptions (95% CI, 0.41-6.2). CONCLUSIONS: Opioid utilization management among these beneficiaries was associated with mixed effects on opioid prescribing, and prior authorization was associated with a decreased likelihood of subsequent overdose. Further work exploring the impact of utilization management and insurer policies is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E63-E68
JournalAmerican Journal of Managed Care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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