Postoperative opioid prescribing practices and the impact of the hydrocodone schedule change

Wen Hui Tan, Sara Feaman, Laurel Milam, Valerie Garber, Jared McAllister, Jeffrey A. Blatnik, L. Michael Brunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: In 2014, hydrocodone was moved from Schedule III to II, thus it could no longer be “called in” to a pharmacy. We analyzed current postoperative opioid prescribing patterns and the impact of the schedule change on the type and amount prescribed. Methods: Opioid prescriptions for common surgeries at 1 medical center from 2013 to 2016 were analyzed retrospectively. Milligram morphine equivalents prescribed before and after the schedule change were compared by t tests, and interrupted time series models and drug frequencies were compared by χ2 and Fisher exact tests. Results: Data from 7,046 patients (7,361 prescriptions) after 29 different operations were analyzed. Milligram morphine equivalents prescribed for minor open procedures ranged from 211 to 342 milligram morphine equivalents, from 323 to 1297 for major open procedures, from 238 to 359 for basic laparoscopic procedures, and from 221 to 868 for complex laparoscopic procedures. Mean milligram morphine equivalents prescribed were not affected for most procedures, but over the entire population, milligram morphine equivalents prescribed began decreasing after the rule change. The percentage of hydrocodone prescriptions decreased after the rule change (from 33.8% down to 27.0%) and oxycodone and tramadol prescriptions increased. Conclusion: Before versus after the rule change, hydrocodone prescriptions decreased and oxycodone and tramadol prescriptions increased. Milligram morphine equivalents prescribed varied considerably across and within classes of procedures, but the schedule change did not affect mean milligram morphine equivalents prescribed for most procedures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)879-886
Number of pages8
JournalSurgery (United States)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2018


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