In Ohio, Opioid Prescriptions Continue Gradual Decline

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The amount of opioid pain killers prescribed in Ohio declined in 2016, the fourth consecutive year the number of dispensed highly-addictive pills dropped.

A report compiled from Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System data showed that between 2012 and 2016 the total number of opioid doses dispensed to Ohio patients declined by 20.4 percent – from a peak of 793 million pills to 631 million pills, according to the State Board of Pharmacy.

The number of prescriptions written for patients across Ohio during that time also declined by 20 percent.

“Ohio has one of the most comprehensive approaches to address the responsible prescribing of opioid pain relievers,” said Tracy Plouck, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “The progress shown in these data illustrate that our partnership with prescribers is helping to reduce opportunities for prescription opioid misuse and addiction.”

Opioids are synthetic pain killers that are blamed as a key reason for spiking numbers in overdose deaths and use of heroin. A report from The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation released last November showed that Ohio led the nation with 2,106 opioid overdose deaths in 2014.

And the epidemic has not waned.

In 2016 there were more than 500 drug overdose deaths in Cuyahoga County alone, with opioids claiming the lion’s share. That’s more than double the 2015 total.

The fight to contain the epidemic has a political component to it, also. A analysis of data provided by the Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found:

  • As deaths in Ohio rose 81 percent between 2006 and 2014, manufacturers of the painkillers and pain-management advocates gave more than $3 million to the campaigns and political parties of many of the state’s politicians.
  • More than $2 million when to congressional candidates, but Ohio state politicians also received contributions. Gov. John Kasich topped state officerholders, receiving more than $45,000 between 2009 and mid 2015. Kasich became governor in 2011.
  • The drug makers have adopted a 50-state strategy that includes hundreds of lobbyists and millions in campaign contributions targeting measures aimed at stemming the tide of prescription opioids.

Ohio started its prescription tracking system in 2006 to collect information on all prescriptions for controlled substances. In response to the opioid epidemic, the state pumped $15 million into upgrading the system in 2015.

The system allows the state to monitor who is prescribing the drugs and also to spot when patients are doctor shopping to collect prescriptions.

Between 2012 and 2016 the amount of people doctor shopping declined by 78.2 percent, according to the state.

“I am confident that such best practices, including the use of OARRS, will further decrease opioid prescribing and expose fewer Ohioans to these potentially addictive medications,” said Steven W. Schierholt, executive director of the state pharmacy board.

This month Kasich signed legislation that further tightened restrictions on prescription opioids and making addiction treatment easier to obtain, although the legislation did not include any additional funding.

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