Opioid Knowledge and Prescribing Practices Among Obstetrician–Gynecologists

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To describe obstetrician–gynecologists' (ob-gyns) knowledge and prescribing practices regarding opioid analgesics.

METHODS:

We conducted a cross-sectional survey of a national sample of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Fellows and Junior Fellows who are part of the Collaborative Ambulatory Research Network. We used a sequential mixed-method approach. We collected data on opioid knowledge and typical prescribing practices, including number, type, and indication for prescriptions. We determined adherence to four recommended practices: 1) screening for dependence, 2) prescribing the smallest amount required, 3) tailoring prescriptions, and 4) counseling on proper disposal. We also explored variables associated with prescribing practices.

RESULTS:

Sixty percent (179/300) of sampled members responded. Respondents reported prescribing a median of 26 (5–80) pills per patient across all indications combined. Ninety-eight percent prescribed opioids after surgery and a smaller proportion for nonsurgical indications: vaginal birth (22%), ovarian cysts (30%), endometriosis (24%), and chronic pelvic pain of unknown cause (18%). The number prescribed varied only by indication for the prescription. Nineteen percent reported adherence to three or more (of four) recommended practices. There was no significant difference in the median number of pills prescribed between those who reported adherence to at least one compared with those who did not adhere to any recommended practices (25 [interquartile range 25–30] vs 28 [interquartile range 20–30], P=.58). Regarding knowledge, 81% incorrectly identified the main source of misused opioids, which is through diversion from a friend or family member, and 44% did not know how to properly dispose of unused prescription opioids.

CONCLUSION:

Obstetrician–gynecologists reported prescribing a median of 26 opioid pills across all indications combined. Amount prescribed varied widely by indication but not by reported adherence to recommended prescribing practices. This study highlights an urgent need for increased efforts to improve ob-gyns' knowledge of opioid use, misuse, disposal, and best prescribing practices.

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