Opi­oid pre­scrip­tions in Val­ley have de­creased

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY TIM SHEE­HAN tshee­[email protected]

A ma­jor court judg­ment against a drug com­pany and re­ports of a multi-bil­lion dol­lar set­tle­ment be­ing ne­go­ti­ated by another phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany has drawn na­tion­wide at­ten­tion about ad­dic­tive pain-re­liev­ing opi­oid drugs.

In the cen­tral San Joaquin Val­ley, where al­most 1,000 deaths have been blamed on overdoses of pre­scrip­tion nar­cotics over the past decade, doc­tors are gen­er­ally writ­ing fewer pre­scrip­tions at a lower rate than they were 10 years ago.

Since pre­scrip­tion rates per 1,000 res­i­dents peaked ear­lier this decade, the num­ber of pre­scrip­tions for opi­oid nar­cotics such as hy­drocodone, oxy­codone, codeine and oth­ers in the five Val­ley coun­ties are down by as much as 24.7 per­cent.

Hy­drocodone is sold un­der mul­ti­ple brand names in­clud­ing Vi­codin, while oxy­codone is sold as OxyCon­tin, Per­co­cet or Per­co­dan, among oth­ers.

Still, with be­tween 560 and 660 pre­scrip­tions be­ing writ­ten each year for every 1,000 res­i­dents in Fresno, Kings, Madera, Merced and Tu­lare coun­ties, the state De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health re­ports pre­scrip­tion rates in the re­gion out­pace the statewide rate of about 500 pre­scrip­tions per 1,000 peo­ple.

In Fresno County alone, al­most 644,000 pre­scrip­tions for opi­oid nar­cotics were writ­ten for pa­tients by their doc­tors last year, filled ei­ther through phar­ma­cies or ad­min­is­tered in hos­pi­tals or med­i­cal clin­ics. That’s part of al­most 24.4 mil­lion pre­scrip­tions statewide in 2018.

WHY DOES IT MAT­TER?

In the Val­ley, the past 10 years have seen 1,131 opi­oid over­dose deaths, 974 of which were re­lated to pre­scrip­tion drugs.

From 2008 through 2018, Cal­i­for­nia re­ported 21,765 deaths at­trib­ut­able to overdoses of opi­oids. The dead­li­est year was last year, when 2,311 deaths were re­lated to opi­oid poi­son­ing, the state health de­part­ment re­ported. Of those, nearly 1,700 were from pre­scrip­tion drugs.

Cal­i­for­nia is among a num­ber of states tak­ing phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal

com­pa­nies to court for al­legedly flood­ing the mar­ket with ad­dic­tive painkiller­s and con­tribut­ing to thou­sands of over­dose deaths. The state filed suit in June against Pur­due Pharma, the man­u­fac­turer of OxyCon­tin, al­leg­ing the com­pany used “un­law­ful prac­tices in the mar­ket­ing, sale and dis­tri­bu­tion of opi­oids.”

Last month, fed­eral agents tar­geted another big phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany, McKes­son Corp., and its fa­cil­ity in West Sacramento, after the U.S. Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion scoured its reg­u­la­tory data­bases and dis­cov­ered that over the past two years, McKes­son was the largest dis­trib­u­tor of oxy­codone and hy­drocodone in the state.

A war­rant was based on what the DEA called “sus­pi­cious orders” of nar­cotics since 2006. It sought records on how the com­pany dis­trib­utes the highly

SINCE PRE­SCRIP­TION RATES PER 1,000 RES­I­DENTS PEAKED, THE NUM­BER OF PRE­SCRIP­TIONS FOR OPI­OID NAR­COTICS SUCH AS HY­DROCODONE, OXY­CODONE, CODEINE AND OTH­ERS IN THE FIVE VAL­LEY COUN­TIES ARE DOWN BY AS MUCH AS 24.7 PER­CENT.

ad­dic­tive drugs.

The at­ten­tion and con­cern over overdoses from pre­scrip­tion drugs reached a new peak last week after a judge in Ok­la­homa is­sued a $572 mil­lion judg­ment against John­son & John­son for its role in the dis­tri­bu­tion and mar­ket­ing of the nar­cotics. That rul­ing at the con­clu­sion of a sixweek trial came after two other com­pa­nies, Teva and Pur­due Pharma, opted to set­tle with the state.

Pur­due Pharma is re­port­edly ne­go­ti­at­ing a set­tle­ment be­lieved to be worth $10 bil­lion to $12 bil­lion to set­tle law­suits across the coun­try. At­tor­neys gen­eral in 48 states and hun­dreds of lo­cal gov­ern­ment agen­cies have law­suits pend­ing against drug com­pa­nies, blam­ing them for be­ing at least par­tially re­spon­si­ble for an opi­oid epi­demic that has fu­eled nearly 100,000 deaths from overdoses na­tion­wide in 2017 and 2018.

In re­cent years, the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Prevention have urged physi­cians to be aware of the po­ten­tial for pa­tients to de­velop ad­dic­tions to pre­scrip­tion opi­oids.

The mes­sage seems to be get­ting through. Just as the num­ber of pre­scrip­tions be­ing writ­ten by doc­tors in Cal­i­for­nia have fallen, so to has the vol­ume of opi­oid nar­cotics shipped by drug man­u­fac­tur­ers and dis­trib­u­tors to phar­ma­cies, hos­pi­tals and med­i­cal prac­tices after ris­ing steadily for years.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.