West Virginia pharmacies are dispensing significantly fewer doses of the state’s most popular prescription painkiller. The number of hydrocodone products, such as Vicodin and Lortab, dropped by nearly 13 million tablets last year, following a U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration change that put tighter restrictions on the medication that has been linked to hundreds of overdose deaths in West Virginia over the past 10 years, according to data from the state’s Controlled Substance Monitoring Program (CSMP).
In October 2014, the federal government reclassified highly addictive hydrocodone products from schedule III narcotics to schedule II, which comes with more restrictions. The change aimed to curb prescription opioid abuse.
Hydrodocone remains the state’s number one painkiller, with nearly 63 million pills dispensed statewide last yer. But the number of hydrocodone tablets has declined each of the past five years. The biggest drop was last year.
According to CSMP data, in 2011 West Virginia pharmacies dispensed 99.6 million doses of hydrocodone, so the supply has been reduced by more than a third.
West Virginia’s decline in hydrocodone prescribing mirrors a national trend. A federal study released in January 2016 found that the DEA’s decision to reschedule the painkiller led to 1.1 billion fewer hydrocodone pills being dispenses in the U. S.
While West Virginia’s hydrocodone numbers have dropped off, prescriptions for the painkiller Tramadol have increased from less than 1 million pills to 35.5 million pills over the past five years. Tramadol, a schedule IV drug, was the third most dispensed controlled substance in West Virginia last year.
Since 2011 in West Virginia, the number of oxycodone pills — the state’s second most popular pain medication — held steady at about 40 million pills annually, according to the CSMP.
Among all controlled substances, West Virginia pharmacies dispensed 280 million pills last year, down frmo 296 million in 2011. West Virginia has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation.