Research on Pediatric Opioid Prescribing Gains Notice

A study by Chapman University School of Pharmacy researchers evaluating trends in opioid prescribing for pediatric patients is gaining attention after being published by JAMA Network Open, an online journal of the American Medical Association.

Led by Daniel Tomaszewski, Pharm.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of pharmacy administration, researchers conducted a cross-sectional study of 69,152 emergency room visits by patients under 18 over a 10-year period ending in 2015. The research, which was supported by the Kay Family Foundation, found that opioid prescribing rates have decreased in recent years, reversing a rise in use before 2011.

Daniel Tomaszewski headshot
Daniel Tomaszewski

“Although this is viewed as a positive trend when considering the opioid epidemic and increasing rates of deaths associated with opioids, the study results also pointed out some inconsistencies in prescribing trends that have persisted over the years,” Tomaszewski said. “One inconsistency that we are researching further is the significant difference in opioid prescribing when comparing white patients to non-white patients, with white patients being 34 percent more likely to be prescribed an opioid compared to non-white patients.”

The researchers also found that opioids were most likely to be prescribed in the Western U.S. and were more likely to be prescribed to patients who were not on Medicaid.

Tomaszewski’s coauthors included Sun Yang, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacy, with computational science collaboration by Cody Arbuckle ’14, (M.S. ’15, Ph.D. ’18), and Erik Linstead ’01, Ph.D., assistant professor and program director for the faculty of computer science. Reports of the study have been picked up by Medical Health News, Health Day News publications and, among other outlets.

Tomaszewski said the group’s future research will continue to evaluate the inconsistencies of opioid prescribing based on race or ethnicity, among other projects.

“In addition, we are evaluating the long-term impact of opioid use in pediatrics and the potential association with opioid abuse/misuse/overdoses and other forms of substance abuse later in life,” he said. “Lastly, we are partnering with local health systems to develop prospective research projects that will allow us to begin to evaluate the role pharmacists can have in ensuring appropriate use of opioids in pediatric patients and to better manage any long-term effects early age opioid use may have.”

Robyn Norwood