TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – New data show that the number of prescribed opioid analgesics in the US has fallen dramatically over the past year. They showed their biggest decline in 25 years.
The decline comes under increasing legal restrictions and public awareness of the dangers of addiction.
A healthcare data company released a report Thursday showing a 9 percent average decline in the number of prescriptions for opioids bottled by retail and mail-order pharmacies. All 50 states and the District of Columbia reported a decline of more than 5 percent.
It is estimated that the US consumes about 30 percent of all opioids used worldwide.
The IQVIA Institute for Human Data Research published a report on Thursday of an average 8.9 percent decrease in prescriptions of opioids by retail and mail order pharmacies nationwide. All 50 states and the District of Columbia had a decline of more than 5 percent. In 1
"We are in a really critical moment in the country, when everyone is watching over this issue," said Michael Kleinrock, research director of the institute. "People really do not want them if they can avoid them."
The total dose of opioid prescriptions was reduced by another 12 percent in 2017. Reasons include the fact that more prescriptions are shorter duration, a decrease of 7.8 percent in new patients who start with opioid prescriptions, and far fewer high-dose prescriptions.
Opioid doses are measured in "morphine milligram equivalents". (A standard pill of Vicodin has the equivalent of 5 milligrams of morphine.) Prescriptions for doses of 90 morphine milligram equivalents per day or more, which carry the highest risk of addiction, dropped 16 percent according to the report.
Estimates suggest that the United States consumes about 30 percent of all opioids used worldwide.
Opioid prescriptions and daily doses have been increasing steadily since the 1990s, including the marketing of new opioid pills such as Oxycontin. Usage peaked in 2011, well above that of other wealthy countries where national health systems control aggressive narcotics.
US descent began after overdoses and deaths from prescription opioids and illegal narcotics exploded and pushed several groups back.
The Federal Government and about half of the states have enacted restrictions, such as the dose or duration of opioids that can be prescribed. Insurers and drugstores began to introduce similar opioid thresholds for acute pain, as opposed to cancer and chronic pain patients. The Drug Enforcement Administration increased the prosecution of serious prescribers. And numerous medical groups have issued guidelines encouraging prescribers to offer other pain management options, if possible, and to limit the dose and duration of opioid prescriptions.
Despite these measures, deaths from overdoses in the US and in emergency departments have continued to increase – a big jump in overdose opioids last year, according to government data.
Doctors have listened to news from medical groups, and some worry that they will be arrested or lose their license if they deliver too many opioids, said Bob Twillman, executive director of the Academy of Integrative Pain Management, the doctors and others Representing Pain Patients Represents.
"We get many phone calls from patients whose family doctors have said they will not prescribe opioids at all" and want referrals to other doctors, Twillman said.
The opioid data is part of IQVIA's annual report on US drug spending trends. It found that last year the total amount for prescription drugs, after several discounts and rebates drug Makers give middlemen, was $ 324 million, up 0.6 percent. The report predicts that after these discounts, drug spending will increase by 2 to 5 percent per year over the next five years.