News Release

Advanced analytics to identify risk of potentially inappropriate prescription opioid use

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Arizona Health Sciences

Jenny Lo-Ciganic, PhD, University of Arizona Health Sciences

image: This is Jenny Lo-Ciganic, PhD. view more 

Credit: (UAHS BioCommunications)

New prediction tools to help health-care providers identify patients at risk of inappropriate prescription opioid use, while allowing safe administration of legitimate pain management to those not at high-risk, are being developed by University of Arizona College of Pharmacy researcher Jenny Lo-Ciganic, PhD.

Dr. Lo-Ciganic, assistant professor of pharmacy, has been awarded a $100,000, one-year Research Starter Grant for Health Outcomes from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) Foundation. TheResearch Starter Award for Health Outcomes will allow her to apply advanced analytics to Medicare claims data (a 5 percent national representative sample with 3 million beneficiaries) from 2011 to 2015 to discover hidden patterns within complex health-care data. With this information, she will be able to generate precise prediction tools that can better guide health-care providers in implementing effective interventions and policies.

The advanced analytics used in this study are similar to "machine-learning approaches" used by companies such as Amazon and Netflix.

"Think of these companies that, based on your previous searches or purchases, can predict and promote items specifically for you. We are applying similar data-driven approaches to better predict inappropriate opioid use among Medicare beneficiaries," said Dr. Lo-Ciganic.

Dr. Lo-Ciganic added that traditional statistical methods have limited ability to handle missing values or complex interactions in health-care data.

"While prior studies have focused on identifying individual risk factors rather than predicting actual risk, they haven't taken into account complex interactions between opioid use and other factors such as substance use disorders, mental health disorders and frequent emergency department visits," Dr. Lo-Ciganic said. "Using advanced analytics, we can sort through massive amounts of complex data and develop tools to better predict patients who may need to be monitored or have interventions put into place."

Her study not only will identify and predict beneficiaries at risk for inappropriate prescription opioid use, it also will identify geographic "hot-spots," or clusters, of inappropriate opioid use. The findings from this study will allow health-care providers to better allocate resources for targeted interventions and help communities develop tailored care plans for specific at-risk regions or populations.


Dr. Lo-Ciganic is a pharmacoepidemiologist who has interests in medication adherence, drug safety, cancer prevention, quality and value of prescribing and application of innovative methods. Her newlyfunded research builds on previous research she completed as a postdoctoral associate for the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh Health Policy Institute.

About the UA College of Pharmacy

Established in 1947, the College of Pharmacy was the first health sciences college at the University of Arizona and is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Educating pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists, the college participates in many interprofessional and multiinstitutional educational and research collaborations throughout Arizona and globally. It is ranked among the premier colleges of pharmacy in the United States and is often among the top 20 colleges of pharmacy in terms of external funding for research, including funding from the National Institutes of Health. For more information, visit

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $126 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information:

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