Reuters Health

Government letters informing doctors they’re prescribing vastly more addictive drugs than their peers fall on deaf ears, according to a new study.

The doctors in the study were all writing far more prescriptions for drugs like opioid painkillers than doctors in similar specialties practicing nearby – but the letters didn’t lead to changes in prescribing.

Still, the study’s lead author said the results will help researchers who are studying ways to get doctors to pay attention.

“I think if there is a way to make these letters effective it may be one tool in the arsenal to curb the high rate of opioid deaths,” said Adam Sacarny, of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City.

The use and abuse of opioid pain relievers – like Vicodin and OxyContin – have risen dramatically since the late 1990s, with overdose death rates quadrupling between 1999 and 2014, the researchers write in Health Affairs.

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