Opioid Prescriptions Finally Stabilizing

opioid prescriptionsSince the 1990s, death rates from opioids had been rising significantly, leading most states to implement a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP).[1] A current study conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health has evaluated the impact of PDMPs, finding that after tripling since 2007, annual rates of opioid prescriptions have finally stabilized.1

The researchers used quarterly data on prescription opioids from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System for the years 1999 to 2008.1 They analyzed the impact of the PDMPs nationally and at state level.1 Results were based on data for the seven most commonly distributed opioid analgesics: fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, meperidine, methadone, morphine, and oxycodone.1

From 1991 to 2010, the annual number of prescriptions for opioid analgesics in the United States nearly tripled, from 76 million to 210 million.1 Through 2008, PDMPs had no significant impact on the opioids dispensed per capita.1 However, when the researchers examined the data for individual states, they found that nine states recorded significantly fewer opioid prescriptions after implementing a PDMP, while 14 states had no change, and eight states had a significant increase.1 The states with the greatest PDMP-associated decrease were Colorado (66.4 percent), Texas (54 percent), and Wyoming (48 percent).1 The largest increase was in Connecticut (61 percent).1 Overall, the amount of prescriptions given were lower in the Midwest and higher in the Northeast.1

“We found that PDMPs administered by state health departments appeared to be more effective than those administered by other government agencies, such as the bureau of narcotics and the board of pharmacy,” said senior author Guohua Li, MD, DrPH.1

States with monitoring programs governed by a state department of health dispensed nearly 18 percent fewer prescriptions than states without a program.1

“All age groups have been affected by the epidemic of prescription drug misuse, but the consequences of opioid analgesic misuse are particularly striking in adolescents and young adults,” said Joanne Brady, a PhD candidate in epidemiology. “While state prescription drug monitoring programs have greatly expanded and rates of opioids dispensed are stabilizing, there exists considerable room to improve the overall effectiveness of state PDMPs, such as increasing interstate data sharing and making prescription drug-dispensing information accessible by healthcare providers in real time.”1

[1] Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. (2014, March 11). Prescriptions for opioids stabilizing after fivefold increase in 10-year span. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140311101319.htm

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