In the second half of 2010, abuse-deterrent extended-release oxycodone hydrochloride (OxyContin; Purdue Pharma) was introduced and propoxyphene was withdrawn from the US market. The effect of these pharmaceutical market changes on opioid dispensing and overdose rates is unknown.
To evaluate the association between 2 temporally proximate changes in the opioid market and opioid dispensing and overdose rates.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Claims from a large national US health insurer were analyzed, using an interrupted time series study design. Participants included an open cohort of 31.3 million commercially insured members aged 18 to 64 years between January 1, 2003, and December 31, 2012, with median follow-up of 20 months (last follow-up, December 31, 2012).
Introduction of abuse-deterrent OxyContin (resistant to crushing or dissolving) on August 9, 2010, and market withdrawal of propoxyphene on November 19, 2010.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Standardized opioid dispensing rates and prescription opioid and heroin overdose rates were the primary outcomes. We used segmented regression to analyze changes in outcomes from 30 quarters before to 8 quarters after the 2 interventions.
Two years after the opioid market changes, total opioid dispensing decreased by 19% from the expected rate (absolute change, −32.2 mg morphine-equivalent dose per member per quarter [95% CI, −38.1 to −26.3]). By opioid subtype, the absolute change in dispensing by milligrams of morphine-equivalent dose per member per quarter at 2 years was −11.3 (95% CI, −12.4 to −10.1) for extended-release oxycodone, 3.26 (95% CI, 1.40 to 5.12) for other long-acting opioids, −8.19 (95% CI, −9.30 to −7.08) for propoxyphene, and −16.2 (95% CI, −18.8 to −13.5) for other immediate-release opioids. Two years after the market changes, the estimated overdose rate attributed to prescription opioids decreased by 20% (absolute change, −1.10 per 100 000 members per quarter [95% CI, −1.47 to −0.74]), but heroin overdose increased by 23% (absolute change, 0.26 per 100 000 members per quarter [95% CI, −0.01 to 0.53]).
Conclusions and Relevance
Opioid dispensing and prescription opioid overdoses decreased substantially after 2 major changes in the pharmaceutical market in late 2010. Pharmaceutical market interventions may have value in combatting the prescription opioid overdose epidemic, but heroin overdose rates continue to increase. Complementary strategies to identify and treat opioid abuse and addiction are urgently needed.