Study: Opioid prescriptions in US have not declined

Study: Opioid prescriptions in US have not declined
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A new study reveals that the rate of opioid prescriptions in the country has not significantly declined for many patients over the past decade.

The Mayo Clinic's study released Wednesday shows that the rate of opioid use has remained steady for most groups despite increased attention to opioid abuse.

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“Our research of patient-level data doesn’t show the decline that was found in most previous research,” Molly Jeffery, the scientific director of the Mayo Clinic Division of Emergency Medicine Research and the lead author of the study, told Mayo Clinic News Network.

The study found that from 2007 to 2016, annual opioid usage among commercially insured patients was at 14 percent. The quarterly prescription rate also held relatively steady for aged Medicare beneficiaries, increasing from 11 percent to 14 percent over the decade.

Disabled Medicare beneficiaries, who had the highest rates of opioid use among those viewed in the study, saw a sharper increase, from 26 percent quarterly opioid use in 2007 to 39 percent in 2016. The average daily dose also increased.

Jeffery explained that the study’s focus on individual patient data was what led researchers to such different conclusions from other studies.

She said that those working on the latest research "wanted to know how the declines were experienced by individual people” rather than the patterns “in the total amount of opioids prescribed across the whole market.”

The study comes amid increased attention to the nation's opioid epidemic. The Centers for Disease, Control and Prevention reports that 63,632 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016 and attributed two-thirds of those deaths to opioids.