Opioid prescriptions static since 2007 despite increased awareness of misuse

A study, published in The BMJ, examined trends in the rate and daily dose of opioids used among commercial and Medicare Advantage beneficiaries over a nine-year period.

Researchers used a national database of medical and pharmacy claims for commercially insured and Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in the U.S. The study examined 48 million individuals with any period of insurance coverage between Jan. 1, 2007 and Dec. 31, 2016.

The study shows annual opioid use prevalence was 14 percent for commercial beneficiaries, 26 percent for Medicare beneficiaries (65 years and older) and 52 percent for disabled Medicare beneficiaries (under 65 years of age).

Among the commercial beneficiaries quarterly prevalence of opioid use changed little, remaining at 6 percent through the study period. For Medicare beneficiaries, quarterly use prevalence ranged from 11 percent at the beginning of the study period to 14 percent at the end.

Among disabled Medicare beneficiaries both quarterly use rates (39 percent) and average daily dose (56 milligram morphine equivalents) were higher at the end of 2016 than the low points observed in 2007.

"Opioid use and average daily dose have not substantially declined from their peaks, despite increased attention to opioid abuse and awareness of their risks," study authors concluded.

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