Opioid Prescriptions Have Tripled Since 1999

In a new report the CDC says U.S. doctors are prescribing fewer opioids than they were in 2010 but that overall rates remain high

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in OR, that translated to eastern counties like Union and Wallowa, and southwestern counties like Lane, Douglas and Jackson.

Despite statewide efforts to curb opioid use and abuse, Oklahoma continues to see high rates of painkillers prescribed in a third of the counties in the state, according to a federal report released Thursday.

The CDC report also found prescribing numbers are inconsistent in Alabama.

In Cambria and Blair counties, doctors prescribed the equivalent of between 957 and 5,500 milligrams of morphine equivalents - including hydrocondone, oxycodone, methadone and morphine - for each resident in 2015, the CDC found.

Prescriptions declined from a peak of 782 morphine milligram equivalents (MME) per person in 2010 to 640 MME per person in 2015, according to researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The overall prescribing rate fell 13 percent between 2010 and 2015.

The average days' supply per prescription increased 33% from 13 days in 2006 to nearly 18 days in 2015. However, the number of prescriptions in 2015 was three times higher than in 1999 and four times higher than opioid prescription rates in Europe.

"Opioid prescribing varies from place to place as much as the weather", Schuchat said. To combat overprescribing, she said physicians should do so only when benefits outweigh risks. "This would quickly bring down the number of prescriptions to the proper balance of prescribed medications for those that need them, and eliminate those prescriptions made outside of the CDC recommendations". Likewise, in OH and Kentucky, where providers are required to review a database of prescription information by way of monitoring, 85% and 62% of counties reported decreases in prescription practices.

Attempts to restrict opioid prescribing have upset many patients with chronic pain who say their needs are being ignored in the rush to stamp out the addiction epidemic. Customers of Cigna Health Insurance, for instance, have consumed almost 12 percent fewer opioids in the past year, according to Will Lopez, senior medical director of Cigna Behavioral Health. The county also has the seventh highest rate of opioid overdose deaths, state Health Department data shows.

But the sheer volume of opioids prescribed that year was still three times higher than in 1999, according to new government data. Cambria County, for example, was among the state's higher per-person prescription rates and its highest overdose death rates that year. But CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat said that only explains a small fraction of the variation the CDC found across counties. This year, New Jersey became the strictest, limiting painkiller prescriptions to just five days. In fact, between 2014 and 2015, the percent of overdoses attributed to synthetic opioids, much of it attributed to illicit fentanyl, rose by 72% in one year. The move decreased opioid prescriptions in 85% of the 88 OH counties and in 62% of the 114 Kentucky counties examined. "We don't want to forget these (numbers) are people's lives, and they affect communities and families and society as a whole".

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