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ATLANTA—U.S. deaths from prescription painkillers more than tripled during the past 10 years, with more than 40 overdose deaths now occurring daily, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.
To help stem the epidemic, the Atlanta-based CDC called on state health and insurance regulators to “use prescription drug monitoring programs, public insurance programs and workers compensation data to identify improper prescribing of painkillers.”
In its “Vital Signs” report, the CDC also encouraged state regulators to adopt and enforce laws that prohibit “pill mills” and doctor shopping. It also encouraged licensing boards to “take action against inappropriate prescribing.”
“Overdoses involving prescription painkillers are at epidemic levels and now kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined,” CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a statement.
“States, health insurers, health care providers and individuals have critical roles to play in the national effort to stop this epidemic of overdoses while we protect patients who need prescriptions to control pain,” Dr. Frieden said.
Opioid pain relievers were involved in 14,800 U.S. deaths in 2008, or 73.8% of the all prescription drug overdose deaths, the CDC reported.
The overdoses involve narcotic pain relievers such as hydrocodone, methadone, oxycodone and oxymorphone, according to the CDC.
For in-depth coverage of this topic and related issues, visit our Solution Arc on Opioid Abuse and Workers Compensation: Tackling a Growing Problem.
More states are considering creating medical guidelines for doctors prescribing opioid pain medications to workers compensation claimants and other patients, said Dr. Leonard J. Pauloozi.