mass. leads in reducing opioid RXs
Report: Prescriptions down 51 pct. since 2013
Massachusetts is leading the nation in driving down opioid prescriptions, according to a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts report released yesterday.
“It’s only one piece of the crisis, but this was the problem that got it started,” said Dr. Ken Duckworth, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts’ medical director for behavioral health. “There’s no question this is an important win in the process of reducing the initiation of a lot of people into this.”
According to the survey, 51 percent fewer opioid prescriptions were written in Massachusetts in 2017 compared to 2013.
Bay State doctors wrote 193 prescriptions for opioids per 1,000 Blue Cross commercially insured members, compared to the national average of 394 per 1,000 members.
Duckworth said the prescribing culture has changed significantly in the past few years, thanks to work from Blue Cross, the Massachusetts Medical Society and Gov. Charlie Baker.
“You don’t hear so much about people going to the emergency room and walking away with 100 Vicodin anymore,” Duckworth said.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts launched its Prescription Pain Medication Safety Program in 2012. According to the association, the program reduced the number of opioid prescriptions by 60 million doses in its first five years.
The study also found all six New England states exceeded the national average in opioid use disorder diagnosis rates — 5.9 percent — with New Hampshire topping the list at 12.3 percent.
Many local hospitals are monitoring the number of opioid prescriptions and tracking their decline. Tufts Medical Center has seen a 35 percent drop since 2012 in its primary care practice, according to Dr. Saul Weingart, chief medical officer at Tufts.
“There’s been a steady decrease in the number of prescriptions,” he said. “In the Emergency Department they’ve also seen a dramatic drop.”
The hospital now has an opioid task force to continue to address the problem, he said.
He added that people who really need those medications are still able to get them, but that patients are taking initiative to avoid them as well.
“Patients are often coming to us and saying, ‘I want to be on less,’” Weingart said. “The doctors want to manage opioids responsibly and safely, but there’s also movement on the patient side.”
DRAMATIC DROP: Prescriptions for opioids, such as OxyContin, above, were down 51 percent in 2017 compared to 2013, according to a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts report.