Patterns of opioid prescriptions received prior to unintentional prescription opioid overdose death among Veterans

Patience Moyo, Xinhua Zhao, Carolyn T. Thorpe, Joshua M. Thorpe, Florentina E. Sileanu, John P. Cashy, Jennifer A. Hale, Maria K. Mor, Thomas R. Radomski, Julie M. Donohue, Leslie R.M. Hausmann, Joseph T. Hanlon, Chester B. Good, Michael J. Fine, Walid F. Gellad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Few studies have assessed prescription opioid supply preceding death in individuals dying from unintentional prescription opioid overdoses, or described the characteristics of these individuals, particularly among Veterans. Objectives: To describe the history of prescription opioid supply preceding prescription opioid overdose death among Veterans. Methods: In a national cohort of Veterans who filled ≥1 opioid prescriptions from the Veterans Health Administration (VA) or Medicare Part D during 2008–2013, we identified deaths from unintentional or undetermined-intent prescription opioid overdoses in 2012–2013. We captured opioid prescriptions using both linked VA and Part D data, and VA data only. Results: Among 1181 decedents, 643 (54.4%) had prescription opioid supply on the day of death, and 735 (62.2%) within 30 days based on linked data, compared to 40.1% and 46.7%, respectively, using VA data alone. Decedents with prescription opioid supply were significantly older and less likely to have alcohol or illicit drugs as co-occurring substances involved in the overdose. Using linked data, 241 (20.4%) decedents lacked prescription opioid supply within a year of death. Conclusions: Many VA patients who die from prescription opioid overdose receive opioid prescriptions outside VA or not at all. It is important to supplement VA with non-VA data to more accurately measure prescription opioid exposure and improve opioid medication safety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1007-1013
Number of pages7
JournalResearch in Social and Administrative Pharmacy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Drug overdose
  • Medicare Part D
  • Poisoning deaths
  • Prescription opioids
  • Veterans


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