Managing opioid waste in the emergency department
Introduction: Management of pain is a component of 80% of all emergency department (ED) visits, and intravenous (IV) opioids are most commonly used to treat moderate to severe pain. Since the dose of stock vials is rarely purchased based on provider ordering patterns, there is often a discrepancy between ordered doses and the dose of the stock vial, leading to waste. Here, waste is defined as the difference between the dose of the stock vials used to fill an order and the ordered dose. Drug waste is problematic as it increases the chance of administering the incorrect dose, it is a source of lost revenue, and in the context of opioids, it increases the opportunity for drug diversion. In this study, we sought to utilize real-world data to describe the magnitude of morphine and hydromorphone waste in the studied EDs. We also applied scenario analyses based on provider ordering patterns to simulate the effects of cost versus opioid waste minimization when making purchasing decisions for the dose of stock vial of each opioid.
Methods: This was an observational analysis of IV morphine and hydromorphone orders across three EDs within a health care system between December 1, 2014 and November 30, 2015. In the primary analysis we measured total waste and cost of all ordered hydromorphone and morphine, and we created logistic regression models for each opioid to estimate the odds that a given ordered dose would create waste. In the secondary scenario analysis we determined the total waste created and total cost to satisfy all written orders for both opioids with respect to prioritizing minimizing waste versus cost.
Results: Among a total of 34,465 IV opioid orders, 7866 (35%) of morphine orders created 21,767 mg of waste, and 10,015 (85%) of hydromorphone orders created 11,689 mg of waste. Larger dose orders were associated with a smaller likelihood of waste in both morphine and hydromorphone due to the doses of stock vials available. In the waste optimization scenario, relative to the base scenario, total waste, which included waste from both morphine and hydromorphone, was reduced by 97% and cost was reduced by 11%. In the cost optimization scenario, cost was reduced by 28% but waste increased by 22%.
Conclusion: As hospitals continue to seek strategies to reduce costs and mitigate the harms of opioid diversion amidst the opioid epidemic, this study shows that optimizing the dose of the stock vial to minimize waste using provider ordering patterns, could mitigate risk while also reducing cost. Limitations included the use of data from EDs within a single health system, drug shortages that affected stock vial availability, and finally, the actual cost of stock vials, used for cost calculations, can differ based on a variety of factors.
Coleska A, Oh A, Rothenberg C, Dinh D, Parwani V, Venkatesh AK. Managing opioid waste, cost, and opportunity for drug diversion in the emergency department. Am J Emerg Med. 2023 May 8;69:195-199. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2023.05.001. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37172559.