Opioid prescribing varies widely among U.S. counties, report finds
Inconsistencies in prescribing practices are leading to significant variation across the country in opioid usage, according to a new government report.
Overall, annual opioid prescribing rates fell 13% between 2012 and 2015 to 70.6 prescriptions for every 100 people, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis.
But the decline was not seen across the board, with only half of U.S. counties experiencing reductions in that period. The amount of opioids per resident in the highest-prescribing counties was six times more than the amount found in the lowest-prescribing counties, the CDC found.
Higher-prescribing counties shared a number of characteristics: higher rates of uninsured and Medicaid enrollment; higher rates of unemployment; a high prevalence of such chronic conditions as arthritis and diabetes, or people suffering from a disability; higher suicide rates; a larger percentage of non-Hispanic whites. These counties also had larger concentrations of dentists and primary-care physicians, the medical specialties that do most of the prescribing of opioids.
The CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat said such factors explained only about onethird of the variations in opioid prescribing. It was not entirely clear what was driving the other two-thirds. “Clinical practice is really all over the
The report’s findings offer a baseline measure of the scope of the opioid epidemic prior to the CDC’s release of its opioids prescribing guidelines for chronic pain in March 2016.
place, which is usually a sign that you need better standards,” Schuchat said during a call with reporters.
Schuchat said the report’s findings offer a baseline measure of the scope of the opioid epidemic prior to the CDC’s release of its opioids prescribing guidelines for chronic pain in March 2016, and that plans were underway to examine in the next year or so how the numbers may have changed since the recommendations were issued.