mass. leads in re­duc­ing opioid RXs

Re­port: Pre­scrip­tions down 51 pct. since 2013

Boston Herald - - BIZ SMART - By LIND­SAY KAL­TER — lind­say.kal­ter@boston­her­ald.com

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.”

AP FILE PHOTO

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.

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