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More painkiller prescriptions written in southern states: Report

Posted On: Jul. 3, 2014 12:00 AM CST

More painkiller prescriptions written in southern states: Report

Opioid prescriptions per person nationwide are highest in southern states, including Alabama, Tennessee, and West Virginia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Providers in Alabama, the highest prescribing state, wrote nearly three times as many prescriptions per person as prescribers in Hawaii, the lowest prescribing state, according to the CDC's “Vital Signs” July report, released Tuesday, which analyzed 2012 prescribing data collected from retail pharmacies by a commercial vendor. A total of 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers were written nationwide that year, the study said.

According to CompPharma L.L.C.'s most recent “Prescription Drug Management in Workers' Compensation” survey, the use of opioids and the increased use of narcotics have been voted the biggest problem in workers comp pharmacy management for three years in a row.

In addition to Hawaii, the CDC study found that the states with the least number of opioid prescriptions per person in 2012 included California, New York, Minnesota and New Jersey.

The report said states can consider using prescription drug monitoring programs or policy options to reduce risky prescribing practices.

New York and Tennessee, which require prescribers to check drug monitoring programs before prescribing opioids, saw a decrease in the number of patients who were seeing multiple providers to obtain drugs in 2012, according to the study. Meanwhile, Florida, which regulates pain clinics and physician dispensing, saw a 50% decrease in overdose deaths in 2012, the study said.

“Prescription drug overdose is epidemic in the United States,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a statement. “All too often, and in far too many communities, the treatment is becoming the problem. Overdose rates are higher where these drugs are prescribed more frequently. States and practices where prescribing rates are highest need to take a particularly hard look at ways to reduce the inappropriate prescription of these dangerous drugs.”

The CDC study is available here.