In what’s becoming a grim and all-too-familiar pattern, new reports and studies continue to point to alarming trends in the use and abuse of opioids across the US. Combined, they create a picture of a country in the throes of an epidemic that reaches all societal levels, with laws that do little to curb the rise in abuse, and a federal drug regulatory agency that has “opened the gate wide” for the overproduction of prescription opioids.
Here’s a rundown of a few of the studies and reports that surfaced recently:
Nearly 1 in 3 Medicare beneficiaries received an opioid prescription in 2015.
A report from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that 12 million Medicare beneficiaries—about 30%—received a prescription for a commonly abused opioid in 2015, at a cost of over $4 billion in Medicare part D spending. The 4% increase over 2014 rates represents a very modest slowdown from 2013, but the long-range trend shows a 165% increase from 2006. Each Medicare beneficiary who was prescribed a commonly abused opioid received an average of 5 prescriptions a year. The opioids with the highest part D spending were OxyContin, hydrocodone-acetaminophin, oxycodone-acetaminophin, and fentanyl.