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Outpatient Opioid Prescriptions for Children

Pediatrics; ePub 2018 Jul 16; Chung, et al

Children without severe conditions frequently filled outpatient opioid prescriptions for acute, self-limited conditions, a recent study found. The retrospective cohort study between 1999 and 2014 included Tennessee Medicaid children and adolescents aged 2-17 years without major chronic disease, prolonged hospitalization, or evidence of a substance use disorder. Researchers estimated the annual prevalence of outpatient opioid prescriptions and incidence of opioid-related adverse events. The found:

  • There were 1,362,503 outpatient opioid prescriptions; the annual mean prevalence of opioid prescriptions was 15.0%.
  • The most common opioid prescriptions were dental procedures (31.1%), outpatient procedure and/or surgery (25.1%), trauma (18.1%), and infections (16.5%).
  • 1 of every 2,611 opioid prescriptions was followed by an opioid-related adverse event (71.2% of which were related to therapeutic use of the prescribed opioid).
  • Adverse events increased with age and higher opioid doses.


Chung CP, Callahan ST, Cooper WO, et al. Outpatient opioid prescriptions for children and opioid-related adverse events. [Published online ahead of print July 16, 2018]. Pediatrics. doi:10.1542/peds.2017-2156.