January 26, 2015

UAMS Researchers Awarded $538,781 Grant to Study Opioid Prescribing and Dispensing

LITTLE ROCK – Two University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) research scientists recently were awarded a three-year $538,781 grant by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to investigate the opioid prescribing and dispensing decision making processes of primary care providers and pharmacists.

Opioids are medications that relieve pain and include drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and codeine.

Leading the team are principal investigator Geoff Curran, Ph.D., director of the UAMS Center for Implementation Research and a professor in the UAMS College of Pharmacy Department of Pharmacy Practice and College of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, and co-investigator Bradley Martin, Pharm.D., Ph.D., a professor in the College of Pharmacy Department of Pharmacy Practice and Division Head of Pharmaceutical Evaluation and Policy.

“We are trying to fill knowledge gaps about how people make decisions regarding prescribing and dispensing opioids and the processes they follow to help them make those decisions,” Curran said.

“The crux of what we are studying is the evaluation of legitimate pain management versus the misuse and abuse potential,” Martin said. “It’s how primary care providers from physicians to nurse practitioners walk the line between pain management so as to not be part of a cycle of abuse and diversion.”

The multidisciplinary research team will do face-to-face interviews of 120 people — 15 pharmacists and 15 primary care providers in each of the four states of Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky and Washington. The $538,781 is included in an overall $1.32 million grant from NIDA to support the multistate study, led Mark Edlund, M.D., Ph.D., at the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina.

The results of the qualitative study will be used to construct models of prescribing and dispensing behaviors that will help address the complex problems sometimes associated with opioid prescribing and dependency.

Since 1980, use of opioids to treat chronic pain has increased dramatically. That increase has paralleled increased rates of opioid-use disorders and overdose deaths. Prescription opioid use disorders are the fastest growing form of drug abuse and the most common cause of accidental drug overdose in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called it an epidemic.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a northwest Arkansas regional campus; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 2,890 students and 782 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS regional centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com.