Nudging Providers to Curtail Dangerous Opioid Prescribing
Despite an enormous policy response, opioid prescribing remains well above historical levels and harms from opioids continue to mount. Nearly all states have Prescription Monitoring Programs (PMPs) to facilitate safer prescribing of opioids and other drugs, but research suggests these systems only deliver benefits when health care professionals use them. Even with PMP mandates in place, providers may be unaware of the dangers of co-prescribing opioids with benzodiazepines or gabapentinoids, which include increased risk of overdose and death. Working with the Minnesota state government, we will mail letters to guideline-discordant opioid prescribers (N=12,000) that either highlight an upcoming legally mandated requirement to check the PMP before prescribing an opioid, inform and educate providers about their patients filling concurrent prescriptions and the dangers of such co-prescribing, or both. Study participants will be randomized to receive no intervention or one of the three treatment letters. Using administrative data, we will track effects of the letters on not only prescribing but also PMP usage and queries. Findings from the multiplicity of treatment messages and outcomes will shed light on the mechanisms driving overprescribing. Results will inform future work by state and local policymakers to make opioid prescribing safer.