High prescribing of antibiotics is associated with high prescribing of opioids in medical and dental providers

Charlesnika T. Evans*, Margaret A. Fitzpatrick, Linda Poggensee, Beverly Gonzalez, Gretchen Gibson, M. Marianne Jurasic, Kelly Echevarria, Jessina C. McGregor, Walid F. Gellad, Katie J. Suda

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Objective: High prescribers of antibiotics and opioids are an important target for stewardship interventions. The goal of this study was to assess the association between high antibiotic and high opioid prescribing by provider type. Design: A national cross-sectional study. Setting: 2015–2017 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) electronic health record data. Population: Prescribers were identified as dentists (2017: n = 1346) and medical providers (physicians n = 23,072; advanced practice providers [APP] n = 7705; and other providers [pharmacists/chiropractors] n = 3674) (2017: n = 34,451). Measurements: High prescribing was defined as being in the top 25% of visit-based rates of antibiotic or opioid prescribing (number of prescriptions/number of dental or medical visits). Multivariable random effects logistic regression with clustering by facility was used to assess the adjusted association between high antibiotic and opioid prescribing. Results: Medical providers prescribed 4,348,670 antibiotic and 10,256,706 opioid prescriptions; dentists prescribed 277,170 antibiotic and 124,103 opioid prescriptions. Among all high prescribers of antibiotics, 40% were also high prescribers of opioids as compared to 18% of those who were not high antibiotic prescribers (p < 0.0001). High prescribing of antibiotics was associated with high prescribing of opioids in medical providers (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 2.87, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.72–3.04) and dentists (aOR = 8.40, 95% CI 6.00–11.76). Older provider age, specific US geographic regions, and lower VA facility complexity and rurality were also associated with high opioid prescribing by medical providers. In dentists, younger provider age, male gender, specific regions of the United States, and lower number of dentists in a facility were associated with high opioid prescribing. At the facility level, high dental prescribers of antibiotics or opioids were not at the same facilities as high medical prescribers, respectively (p < 0.0001). Conclusions: High antibiotic prescribing was associated with high opioid prescribing. Thus, stewardship interventions targeting both medication classes may have higher impact to efficiently reduce prescribing of medications with high public health impact. Provider-targeted interventions are needed to improve antibiotic and opioid prescribing in both dentists and medical providers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)716-723
Number of pages8
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • antibiotics
  • opioids
  • prescriptions
  • veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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