Disabled Medicare beneficiaries in low income counties more likely to be prescribed opioids

Local economic factors significantly influence opioid prescribing practices for Medicare beneficiaries under the age of 65, according to a study published in the journal Medical Care.

For the study, researchers examined 2014 data on 3.5 million disabled Medicare patients under the age of 65. Forty-nine percent of patients filled at least one opioid prescription in 2014. Twenty-eight percent were identified as long-term opioid users, which was defined as having six or more opioid prescriptions in a year. When assessing patient data at the county level, the team found opioid prescribing was higher among lower income counties with high rates of unemployment.

"To identify the reasons for the association of opioid prescribing and local economic conditions, a multipronged approach (involving medical, behavioral health and socioeconomic disciplines) would be needed," concluded the study's authors.

More articles on opioids: 
HCA warns patients they 'will feel pain' in effort to curb opioid use: 4 things to know 
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10 most-read stories on opioids in 2017

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