Number of Seniors on Pain Pills Surges, Alarmingly

'USA Today' analysis reveals jump over 5 years
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 11, 2014 9:11 AM CDT
Number of Seniors on Oxy, Vicodin Sees Alarming Spike
Seniors are using large volumes of strong meds on Medicare, USA Today reports.   (Shutterstock)

More seniors are getting powerful pain meds for longer periods through Medicare, USA Today reports—and the increases are drastic. One in five seniors now gets prescribed pain drugs like Vicodin and Percocet. The number getting opioid pain medication prescriptions jumped 30% between 2007 and 2012, passing 8.5 million people. And there was a hefty surge of 50% in the number of patients getting painkillers that are often abused, including hydrocodone and oxycodone.

The average recipient got a three-month supply of the drug, a 15% increase over that period. Pain meds aren't the only risky drugs seeing big boosts among seniors: There was a 25% increase in the number of people 65 and over getting anti-anxiety drugs, and as of 2012, the typical patient was getting a five-month supply, a 10% jump over the study period. Experts point to seniors' increased risks of side effects, with one noting that "misuse and abuse of these medicines is not uncommon among the elderly." It's an issue "we really need to be concerned about," he adds. (Click for more on how doctors are scoring Medicare millions from a few odd treatments.)

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