Health Services Research & Development

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Carico R, Zhao X, Thorpe CT, Thorpe JM, Sileanu FE, Cashy JP, Hale JA, Mor MK, Radomski TR, Hausmann LRM, Donohue JM, Suda KJ, Stroupe K, Hanlon JT, Good CB, Fine MJ, Gellad WF. Receipt of Overlapping Opioid and Benzodiazepine Prescriptions Among Veterans Dually Enrolled in Medicare Part D and the Department of Veterans Affairs: A Cross-sectional Study. Annals of internal medicine. 2018 Nov 6; 169(9):593-601.
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Abstract: Background: Overlapping use of opioids and benzodiazepines is associated with increased risk for overdose. Veterans receiving medications concurrently from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Medicare may be at higher risk for such overlap. Objective: To assess the association between dual use of VA and Medicare drug benefits and receipt of overlapping opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions. Design: Cross-sectional. Setting: VA and Medicare. Participants: All veterans enrolled in VA and Medicare Part D who filled at least 2 opioid prescriptions in 2013 (n = 368 891). Measurements: Outcomes were the proportion of patients with a Pharmacy Quality Alliance (PQA) measure of opioid-benzodiazepine overlap (=2 filled prescriptions for benzodiazepines with =30 days of overlap with opioids) and the proportion of patients with high-dose opioid-benzodiazepine overlap (=30 days of overlap with a daily opioid dose >120 morphine milligram equivalents). Augmented inverse probability weighting regression was used to compare these measures by prescription drug source: VA only, Medicare only, or VA and Medicare (dual use). Results: Of 368 891 eligible veterans, 18.3% received prescriptions from the VA only, 30.3% from Medicare only, and 51.4% from both VA and Medicare. The proportion with PQA opioid-benzodiazepine overlap was larger for the dual-use group than the VA-only group (23.1% vs. 17.3%; adjusted risk ratio [aRR], 1.27 [95% CI, 1.24 to 1.30]) and Medicare-only group (23.1% vs. 16.5%; aRR, 1.12 [CI, 1.10 to 1.14]). The proportion with high-dose overlap was also larger for the dual-use group than the VA-only group (4.7% vs. 2.3%; aRR, 2.23 [CI, 2.10 to 2.36]) and Medicare-only group (4.7% vs. 2.9%; aRR, 1.06 [CI, 1.02 to 1.11]). Limitation: Data are from 2013 and cannot capture medications purchased without insurance; unmeasured confounding may remain in this cross-sectional study. Conclusion: Among a national cohort of veterans dually enrolled in VA and Medicare, receiving prescriptions from both sources was associated with greater risk for receiving potentially unsafe overlapping prescriptions for opioids and benzodiazepines. Primary Funding Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.