Learning of a patient's fatal overdose curbs opioid scripts

Sending doctors letters about their patient's death had a powerful effect

A simple letter informing doctors that their patient has died of a prescription drug overdose has been shown to have a powerful effect.

A US study shows that doctors who are sent the letters start to prescribe fewer opioids.

Three months after receiving the letter from the medical examiner's office prescriptions dropped by 10%.

Where as those doctors whose patient had also died of a fatal overdose, but did not receive a letter, did not alter their prescribing habits. 

“A simple letter, supportive in tone, to inform clinicians of a scheduled drug harm to their patient resulted in fewer subsequent opioids dispensed by those clinicians,” the researchers said.

As part of the study, the medical examiner’s office in San Diego County sent letters to more than 400 doctors and allied health professionals practicing in California.