Opioids may raise risks for serious infections

In Annals editorial Drs. Dublin and Von Korff advocate more caution in prescribing these medications

KPWHRI’s Sascha Dublin, MD, PhD, and patient.

Increased risk for pneumonia and other serious infections from opioids is one more reason for restraint in prescribing these drugs, Sascha Dublin, MD, PhD, wrote in a Kaiser Permanente Share feature story, “Kaiser Permanente Experts Call for More Caution in Opioid Prescribing.” Dr. Dublin is an associate investigator at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) and a primary care physician (internist) with Washington Permanente Medical Group.

The story is based on an editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine called “Prescription Opioids and Infection Risk: Research and Caution Needed.” Dr. Dublin co-wrote the editorial with Michael Von Korff, ScD, a senior investigator at KPWHRI. They commented on a study by Andrew Wiese and colleagues at Vanderbilt University called “Opioid Analgesic Use and Risk for Invasive Pneumococcal Diseases” in the same issue of Annals.

The new study confirmed previous research, including work by the KPWHRI team, showing that opioid use can raise the risk for serious infections. Drs. Dublin and Von Korff concluded that health care providers should be cautious and closely monitor opioid prescribing in all patients — not only those considered at higher risk for drug addiction or overdose.