Sunday, July 16, 2017

Opioid painkiller prescriptions are down statewide, but remain high, and some counties' rates increased from 2010 to 2015

The number of Kentucky prescriptions for opioid painkillers has gone down since 2010, but "several counties remained near the top nationally in 2015," Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader, on a study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The opioid-prescription rate declined in 74 of the state's 120 counties, reports Melissa Healy of the Los Angeles Times, but it increased in at least 19 counties.
The CDC report "found big differences among counties in the amount of opioids prescribed per person. The per-capita amount prescribed in the top counties averaged six times the amount in the lowest counties, the report said. Some Kentucky counties were in the top category nationally," Estep reports.

"Some of that difference could be explained by having a large number of people with conditions such as arthritis, but that would account for only a fraction of the disparity, the report said. The variations suggest 'inconsistent practice patterns' and a lack of consensus about appropriate opioid use, and shows the need for better use of guidance and standards on prescribing the powerful medication, the CDC said."

While the national rate went down, it went up in more than half of U.S. counties, showing a worsening of the opioid epidemic in rural areas. And the overall rate was still three times as it was in 1999, reflecting how OxyContin and other prescription opioids became more commonly prescribed, and abused.

“There’s still a lot of pills out there,” Van Ingram, head of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, told Estep, who notes, "Overdose deaths have not gone down in Kentucky, even as deaths from oxycodone and hydrocodone have tapered off. Rising abuse of heroin and a far more powerful drug called fentanyl — which also are opioids — has caused even more deaths." Heroin is illegal and fentanyl is rarely prescribed.

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