Opioid Prescribing Among Adults With Disabilities in the United States After the 2014 Federal Hydrocodone Rescheduling Regulation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objectives: Deaths from prescription opioid overdoses have reached an epidemic level in the United States, particularly among persons with disabilities. The 2014 federal rescheduling regulation is associated with reduced opioid prescribing in the general US population; however, to date, no data have been published on this regulation’s effect on persons with disabilities. We examined whether the 2014 hydrocodone rescheduling change was associated with reduced opioid prescribing among adult Medicare beneficiaries with disabilities. Methods: We identified 680 876 Medicare beneficiaries with disabilities aged 21-64 in 2013 and 657 687 in 2015 from a 20% national sample. We examined changes in the monthly opioid-prescribing rates from January 1, 2013, through December 31, 2015. We also compared opioid-prescribing rates in 2013 with rates in 2015. Results: In 2014, the percentage of Medicare beneficiaries with disabilities who received hydrocodone prescriptions decreased by 0.154% per month (95% confidence interval [CI], –0.186 to –0.121, P <.001). The percentage of Medicare beneficiaries with disabilities who received hydrocodone prescriptions decreased from 32.2% in 2013 to 27.7% in 2015, whereas rates of any opioid prescribing, prolonged prescribing (≥90-day supply), and high-dose prescribing (≥100 morphine milligram equivalents per day for >30 days) decreased only modestly, from 50.2% to 49.0%, from 27.4% to 26.5%, and from 7.5% to 7.0%, respectively. Conclusions: The 2014 federal rescheduling of hydrocodone was associated with only minor changes in overall and potentially high-risk opioid-prescribing rates. Neither state variation in long-term prescribing nor beneficiary characteristics explained the changes in persistently high opioid-prescribing rates among adults with disabilities after the 2014 regulation. Future studies should examine patient and provider characteristics underlying the persistent high-risk prescribing patterns in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114-123
Number of pages10
JournalPublic Health Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020



  • disability
  • hydrocodone
  • Medicare
  • opioid
  • regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Cite this