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Opioid Prescriptions by Pain Medicine Physicians in the Medicare Part D Program: A Cross-Sectional Study. Anesth Analg 2021 Jun 01;132(6):1748-1755



Pubmed ID


Pubmed Central ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85106192398 (requires institutional sign-in at Scopus site)


BACKGROUND: Pain medicine physicians (PMP) are a group of physicians with background training in various primary specialties with interest and expertise in managing chronic pain disorders. Our objective is to analyze prescription drug (PD) claims from the Medicare Part D program associated with PMP to gain insights into patterns, associated costs, and potential cost savings areas.

METHODS: The primary data source for Part D claims data is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Chronic Conditions Data Warehouse, which contains Medicare Part D prescription drug events (PDE) records received through the claims submission cutoff date. Only providers with taxonomies of pain management (PM) and interventional pain management (IPM) were included in the study. The analysis of PDE was restricted to drugs with >250 claims. The distribution of claims and costs were analyzed based on drug class and provider specialty. Subsequently, we explored claims and expenses for opioid drug prescriptions in detail. Prescribing characteristics of the top 5% of providers by costs and claims were examined to gain additional insights. The costs and claims were explored for the top 10 drugs prescribed by PMP in 2017.

RESULTS: There were a total of unique 3280 PMP-prescribed drugs with an associated expense of 652 million dollars in the 2017 Medicare Part D program. Prescriptions related to PMP account for a tiny fraction of the program's drug expenditure (0.4%). Opioids, anticonvulsants, and gabapentinoids were associated with the largest number of claims and the largest expenses within this fraction. Among opioid drug prescriptions, brand-named drugs account for a small fraction of claims (8%) compared to generic drugs. However, the expenses associated with brand name drugs were higher than generic drugs. Prescribers in the top 5% by PD costs had a higher number of claims, prescribed a higher proportion of branded medications, and had prescriptions associated with longer day supply compared to an average PMP. There were several opioid medications in the top 10 PD list by cost associated with PMP.

CONCLUSIONS: Opioids were the most common medications among Medicare part D claims prescribed by PMP. Only 12% of the total opioid PD claims were by PMP. The top 5% of PMP prescribers had 10 times more claims than the average PMP.

Author List

Goel V, Moran B, Kaizer AM, Sivanesan E, Patwardhan AM, Ibrahim M, DeWeerth JC, Shannon C 4th, Shankar H


Hariharan Shankar MD Professor in the Anesthesiology department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Analgesics, Opioid
Cohort Studies
Cross-Sectional Studies
Drug Costs
Drug Prescriptions
Medicare Part D
Pain Management
United States