Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Kentucky ranks fourth nationally in painkiller prescriptions; CDC proposal would limit prescription strength and amount

Kentucky has the nation's fourth highest rate of painkiller prescriptions, at about 130 prescriptions for every 100 people, Christine Vestal reports for Stateline. The high rate of painkiller prescriptions is being blamed on a rising rate of overdose deaths, leading health and government officials in many states to call for a limit on the number and strength of painkiller pills prescribed by doctors. (Stateline graphic)
"The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is close to taking the unprecedented step of issuing national guidelines to curb liberal opioid prescribing practices widely blamed as the cause of the epidemic," Vestal writes. "CDC’s draft proposal urges primary care doctors to try drug-free methods to relieve chronic pain, such as exercise, weight loss and physical therapy, as well as non-opioid pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, before resorting to powerful opioid pills. If opioids are needed, the guidelines recommend starting with the smallest effective dose of immediate-release opioids, avoiding more dangerous time-release formulations except when needed." (Stateline graphic)
"Democratic and Republican governors unanimously support the CDC initiative and have pledged to promote the voluntary physician guidelines in their states," Vestal writes. "But the American Medical Association and pain organizations backed by drugmakers are complaining the initiative could make it difficult for chronic pain sufferers to get the pills they need."

Last week the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that five Kentucky clinics—in Richmond, Louisville, Burkesville, Mount Sterling and Whitesburg—would receive $1.8 million to fight addiction to heroin and painkillers, Curtis Tate reports for McClatchy Newspapers. "According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, 1,087 Kentucky residents died of overdoses in 2014, including 204 in Jefferson County and 112 in Fayette County. HHS estimates that overdose deaths from prescription pain medications quadrupled from 1999 to 2013 and that deaths related to heroin increased 39 percent from 2012 to 2013."

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