The prescribing of opioids to manage pain is a common practice in Ontario. However, long-term use can lead to significant harm and even death. As a result, recent guidelines and forthcoming quality standards on opioids have highlighted new starts as one area of focus to improve prescribing practices.
In Starting on Opioids, the data reveals some positives as well as areas of improvement as it relates to “new starts” of opioids – defined in the report as prescriptions for people who have not filled an opioid prescription in at least six months:
New starts accounted for about 15% of all opioid prescriptions in 2016, or about 1.3 million out of almost 8.3 million, a slight decrease of about 25,000, or 2%, new starts from 2013
More than 40,000 Ontarians were started on high doses of prescription opioids (over 90 mg of morphine per day, or the equivalent dose of a different opioid) in 2016 and nearly 325,000 were started with a prescription for more than 7 days
Together, family doctors, surgeons, and dentists represented 86% of all new-start prescriptions in 2016
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