Importance: Current approaches to identifying individuals at high risk for opioid overdose target many patients who are not truly at high risk. Objective: To develop and validate a machine-learning algorithm to predict opioid overdose risk among Medicare beneficiaries with at least 1 opioid prescription. Design, Setting, and Participants: A prognostic study was conducted between September 1, 2017, and December 31, 2018. Participants (n = 560 057) included fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries without cancer who filled 1 or more opioid prescriptions from January 1, 2011, to December 31, 2015. Beneficiaries were randomly and equally divided into training, testing, and validation samples. Exposures: Potential predictors (n = 268), including sociodemographics, health status, patterns of opioid use, and practitioner-level and regional-level factors, were measured in 3-month windows, starting 3 months before initiating opioids until loss of follow-up or the end of observation. Main Outcomes and Measures: Opioid overdose episodes from inpatient and emergency department claims were identified. Multivariate logistic regression (MLR), least absolute shrinkage and selection operator-type regression (LASSO), random forest (RF), gradient boosting machine (GBM), and deep neural network (DNN) were applied to predict overdose risk in the subsequent 3 months after initiation of treatment with prescription opioids. Prediction performance was assessed using the C statistic and other metrics (eg, sensitivity, specificity, and number needed to evaluate [NNE] to identify one overdose). The Youden index was used to identify the optimized threshold of predicted score that balanced sensitivity and specificity. Results: Beneficiaries in the training (n = 186 686), testing (n = 186 685), and validation (n = 186 686) samples had similar characteristics (mean [SD] age of 68.0 [14.5] years, and approximately 63% were female, 82% were white, 35% had disabilities, 41% were dual eligible, and 0.60% had at least 1 overdose episode). In the validation sample, the DNN (C statistic = 0.91; 95% CI, 0.88-0.93) and GBM (C statistic = 0.90; 95% CI, 0.87-0.94) algorithms outperformed the LASSO (C statistic = 0.84; 95% CI, 0.80-0.89), RF (C statistic = 0.80; 95% CI, 0.75-0.84), and MLR (C statistic = 0.75; 95% CI, 0.69-0.80) methods for predicting opioid overdose. At the optimized sensitivity and specificity, DNN had a sensitivity of 92.3%, specificity of 75.7%, NNE of 542, positive predictive value of 0.18%, and negative predictive value of 99.9%. The DNN classified patients into low-risk (76.2% [142 180] of the cohort), medium-risk (18.6% [34 579] of the cohort), and high-risk (5.2%  of the cohort) subgroups, with only 1 in 10 000 in the low-risk subgroup having an overdose episode. More than 90% of overdose episodes occurred in the high-risk and medium-risk subgroups, although positive predictive values were low, given the rare overdose outcome. Conclusions and Relevance: Machine-learning algorithms appear to perform well for risk prediction and stratification of opioid overdose, especially in identifying low-risk subgroups that have minimal risk of overdose.
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