Opioid prescribing falls: WV greatest drop

The number of opioid prescriptions has fallen across the U. S. and in West Virginia over the past three years, slowing the nearly two-decade rise of narcotic painkillers, which still kill more Americans each year than any other drug.

According to IMS Health, a global health information and technology firm, the rate of opioid prescribing in the U. S. has dropped since its peak in 2012.  The drop is the first that has been reported since the early 1990s, when OxyContin first hit the market and pain became “the fifth vital sign” doctors were encouraged to more aggressively treat.

Between 2014 and 2015, West Virginia saw the greatest change in prescribing practices, with the number of opiooid scripts dropping by more than 13 percent.  Nationally, the number of opioid prescriptions written in the U. S. fell from 244,462,567 in 2014 to 227,780,915 in 2015, according to IMS Health.

“West Virginia’s decline in prescribing opioids is primarily attributed to Senate Bill 437, introduced by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and passed by the Legislature,” said WVPA Executive Director Richard Stevens.   “WVPA supported that legislation which regulated pain clinics, placed limits on dispensing controlled substances at clinics, established clinical guidelines, employee training standards and required physicians and pharmacists to complete selected continued education,” he added.

The new law also enhanced the State’s Controlled Substance Monitoring Program, operated by the Board of Pharmacy.   Prescribers and dispensers can access the data electronically to identify persons who attempt to obtain prescription drugs from multiple physicians and pharmacies. The data also identifies physicians who prescribe excessive quantities of controlled substances, and alerts them to patients who are obtaining drugs from other prescribers.   This has contributed to the decline of opioids dispensed.