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U.S. Dentists Prescribe Opioids More Often Than U.K. Dentists

Dentists in the United States also prescribe a greater range of opioids, including long-acting opioids

THURSDAY, May 30, 2019 (HealthDay News) — The proportion of prescriptions for opioids written by dentists in the United States was 37 times greater than the proportion of opioid prescriptions written by English dentists in 2016, according to a study published online May 24 in JAMA Network Open.

Katie J. Suda, Pharm.D., from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and colleagues compared opioid prescribing by dentists in the United States and England during 2016.

The researchers found that in 2016, the proportion of opioid prescriptions written by U.S. dentists was 37 times greater than the proportion written by English dentists. Nearly one-quarter (22.3 percent) of U.S. dental prescriptions were opioids (11.4 million prescriptions) versus 0.6 percent of English dental prescriptions (28,082 prescriptions). For English dentists, the codeine derivative dihydrocodeine was the sole opioid prescribed, whereas U.S. dentists prescribed a range of opioids containing hydrocodone (62.3 percent), codeine (23.2 percent), oxycodone (9.1 percent), and tramadol (4.8 percent). U.S. dentists also prescribed long-acting opioids (0.06 percent of opioids prescribed), which English dentists did not prescribe.

“In light of similar oral health and dentist use between the two countries, it is likely that opioid prescribing by U.S. dentists is excessive and could be reduced,” the authors write.

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