Information from state prescription drug monitoring programs can be used to detect and measure prescribing patterns that suggest abuse and misuse of controlled substances, according to a report released Oct. 15 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Surveillance Summary.
Such information could help reduce abuse of narcotic painkillers and deaths resulting from the narcotics, according to the report.
“Every day, 44 people die in American communities from an overdose of prescription opioids, and many more become addicted,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release. “States are on the frontline of witnessing these overdose deaths. This research can help inform their prescription overdose prevention efforts and save lives.”
Drug overdose is the leading cause of injury death in the U.S., mostly due to abuse and misuse of prescription opioid pain relievers, benzodiazepines (sedatives/tranquilizers) and stimulants, according to the news release.
The multi-state report from the CDC- and FDA-funded Prescription Behavior Surveillance System analyzes data from monitoring programs in California, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Ohio and West Virginia. Those states represent about a quarter of the U.S. population. The study found prescribing practices varied widely among states despite the fact that states are similar in the prevalence of the conditions these drugs are used to treat. Moreover, differences in population characteristics, such as ethnicity and social status, likely explain only a fraction of the variation in prescribing practices. The findings point to the urgent need for improved prescribing practices, particularly for opioids – which in all eight states were prescribed twice as often as stimulants or benzodiazepines.
Prescribing rates varied widely by state: twofold for opioids, fourfold for stimulants, and nearly twofold for benzodiazepines. The study also found a small minority of prescribers are responsible for most opioid prescriptions. The top 1% of prescribers wrote 1 in 4 opioid prescriptions in Delaware, compared with 1 in 8 in Maine. People who receive opioid prescriptions often receive benzodiazepine prescriptions as well, despite the risk for adverse drug interactions. The percentage of controlled substance prescriptions paid for in cash — an indicator of abuse — varied almost threefold among five states reporting this measure.
“A more comprehensive approach is needed to address the prescription opioid overdose epidemic, including guidance to providers on the risks and benefits of these medications,” Debra Houry, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in the release.
The CDC works with states, communities and prescribers to prevent opioid misuse and overdose by tracking and monitoring the epidemic and helping states scale up effective programs such as the Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States program. Learn more at www.cdc.gov/DrugOverdose.
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