West Virginia cuts controlled substance dispensation by 31M pills — overdoses still rise

West Virginia pharmacies dispensed 31.3 million fewer doses of opioids, anti-anxiety medications and amphetamines in 2017, marking a 12 percent decline in controlled substance dispensation from the year prior, according to an annual report from the state's pharmacy board cited by CNBC and the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Michael Goff, acting executive director of the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy, attributed the reduction to increased awareness regarding opioid use's potentially lethal consequences. Mr. Goff's organization notifies pharmacies when a patient dies of a prescription drug overdose and informs licensing boards of strange prescription practices.

"If one of these drugs is listed as the cause of death, now we're sending letters out to the doctors who wrote the prescriptions and to the pharmacies who filled the prescriptions, just letting them know the patient died," Mr. Goff told the Gazette-Mail. "If we see some unusual activities by doctors and pharmacies, where they're filling a bunch of odd things or writing a bunch of prescriptions, we have the ability to notify the licensing boards."

The 2017 decline marked the sharpest such annual reduction recorded in the state. However, drug overdose deaths continued to increase last year. The rising rates of overdose deaths are largely attributable to increased deaths related to heroin and the extremely potent synthetic opioid fentanyl. In 2016, the state saw about 350 fentanyl-related overdose deaths and 250 overdose death associated with heroin, according to CNBC.

"The 884 drug overdose deaths reported in 2016 was a record high for the state, but 2017 numbers are on pace to surpass that total," said the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy's annual report, according to CNBC.

More articles on opioids: 
Autopsy reveals Tom Petty died from opioid-related overdose: 5 things to know 
Risk of opioid misuse jumps 44% with each refill, study finds 
8 recent opioid epidemic lawsuits

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