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Mohs Surgeons Prescribe More Opioids than General Dermatologists

Although Mohs surgeons prescribe more opioids than general dermatologists, their opioid prescribing rate is still lower than the rate of healthcare providers in general—and substantially lower than specialties that frequently care for patients in pain. Researchers presented their findings in a poster at the recent American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

“In this retrospective database analysis, we sought to characterize the national opioid prescription patterns among Mohs surgeons, particularly analyzing how these practices may vary based on factors such as procedural volume and geography,” researchers wrote. “General dermatologists were also analyzed as a comparison group.”
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Study findings were based on data from the Medicare Provider Utilization and Payment Data for 2014. Researchers identified Mohs surgeons as dermatologists who used the Mohs surgery Current Procedural Terminology code 17311.

In 2014, 86,526 opioids were prescribed by 2190 Mohs surgeons, researchers reported, compared with 45,033 opioids prescribed by 10,347 general dermatologists. The estimated opioid prescription rate for Mohs surgeons was 5.9%, compared with a 0.7% rate for general dermatologists.

For context, researchers cited a 6.8% national opioid prescription rate among all healthcare providers and, in specialties that care for patients in pain, a 36.5% rate in surgery, a 29% rate in dentistry, and a 48.6% rate in pain medicine.

“Mohs surgeons prescribed significantly more opioids than general dermatologists, but less than the national average and providers that care for patients in pain,” researchers wrote.

Mohs surgeons who were male and those who were based in the South prescribed a significantly higher average number of opioids among those who prescribed more than 10 opioids, the analysis found. In addition, male Mohs surgeons and members of the American College of Mohs Surgery had significantly higher procedural volume.

Jolynn Tumolo


Kakpovbia E, Feng H, Petriceks A, Feng PW, Geronemus RG. Characteristics of opioid prescriptions by Mohs surgeons in the Medicare population. Presented at: the American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting; March 1-5, 2019; Washington, DC.

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