Trending Clinical Topics for January 2019

Ryan Syrek

Disclosures

February 01, 2019

Each week, we identify one top search term, speculate as to what caused its popularity, and provide an infographic on a related condition. If you have thoughts about what's trending and why, feel free to share them with us on Twitter or Facebook!

Trending Clinical Topic of the Week (January 26 to February 1): Opioids

The ongoing opioid epidemic is always a subject of much interest, but several important pieces of news made it this week's top trending clinical topic. In what has been called an "unprecedented" move, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just announced steps to support companies developing over-the-counter (OTC) naloxone in order to prevent opioid overdose deaths. The FDA is encouraging both nasal spray and auto-injector forms of OTC naloxone. This is in response to dramatic increases in deaths attributed to prescription and illegal opioids. For example, a recent study found that the mortality rate from opioid poisoning among children and adolescents in the United States increased almost threefold from 1999 to 2016.

As the FDA works to prevent overdoses directly, causes that are contributing to the current situation are also being explored. An investigation into opioid prescriptions found a link between the marketing of opioid products to physicians and increased prescribing and elevated mortality from overdoses. As a commentary on these findings explained, with every four additional payments made to physicians per 100,000 population in a US county, 13,000 extra prescriptions were given. This resulted in an 18% increase in deaths attributed to opioid overdose.

A difference in prescribing rates has also been observed between rural and urban areas. Specifically, rates of opioid prescriptions remain significantly higher in rural areas, although those numbers have declined since 2016. Researchers found a rate 87% higher in the most rural US counties compared with large metro counties. To combat all of these mounting concerns, a federal task force has highlighted ways to limit opioid exposure. A draft report called for the establishment of criteria-based guidelines for properly training and credentialing physicians using interventional techniques instead of medications to help manage patients with chronic pain. As all levels of the healthcare system attempt to address this continuing crisis, opioids are likely to stay among the weekly top clinical trending topics for the foreseeable future.

Read more information on opioid abuse.

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