Policy changes in Florida have led to a drop in opioid prescriptions, according to a new government report. Prescription rates for opioids remain high in some states, including Alabama, West Virginia and Tennessee.
Health care providers in the United States wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioids in 2012, USA Today reports. Prescribing rates for drugs including OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet vary widely by state. In Alabama, providers wrote 143 prescriptions for every 100 residents, compared with 52 prescriptions per 100 residents in Hawaii. The findings come from a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
New York and California also reported low rates of opioid prescribing, the article notes.
Florida, which was known for its proliferation of “pill mills,” closed about 250 pain clinics in 2013. The number of high-volume oxycodone dispensing prescribers dropped from 98 in 2010 to none in 2013, the CDC reported. After the state instituted new laws to regulate pain clinics and implemented a new prescription monitoring program, opioid overdose deaths decreased 27 percent between 2010 and 2012.
Preliminary data from the first half of 2013 indicate overdose deaths from oxycodone and the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam (sold as Xanax) continued to decrease. “These changes might represent the first documented substantial decline in drug overdose mortality in any state during the past 10 years,” the report noted.
“Overdoses from opioid narcotics are a serious problem across the country and we know opioid overdoses tend to be highest where opioids get the highest use,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. He says the medications “can be an important tool for doctors to use … but they are not the answer every time someone has pain.”
The CDC urged states to consider ways to increase the use of prescription drug monitoring programs, and to institute laws and regulations relating to pain clinics to reduce prescribing practices that are risky to patients.