Opioid Prescribing Falls Off; But There’s Still a Long Way To Go, the CDC Says

Providers appear to be getting the message about opioid overprescribing, as the CDC reports that the number of such prescriptions have dropped since the high in 2010. Even better, the more dangerous doses of those prescriptions saw the highest drop-off, 41%.

It’s way too early to celebrate; the CDC study points out in the second sentence of its overview that “prescribing remains high and vary widely from county to county. Healthcare providers began using opioids in the late 1990s to treat chronic pain (not related to cancer), such as arthritis and back pain. As this continued, more opioid prescriptions were written, for more days per prescription, in higher doses.”

In its publication, Vital Signs, the CDC outlines way various stakeholders can contribute to help stem the tide of opioid overprescribing. Among the things health plans can do:

  • Use the CDC’s guidelines to evaluate whether opioids are being prescribed properly.
  • Encourage providers to use other treatment methods for pain, including physical therapy and non-opioid pain killers. Reduce barriers, such as prior authorization, to make the prescribing of non-opioid pain killers easier.
  • Pay physicians when they take the time to counsel patients or check on a patient’s prescription history.

Source: CDC