Opioid Crisis Sees Ray of Hope

Use of prescription opioids actually fell in 2018
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2019 1:40 PM CDT
This file photo shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy.   (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

(Newser) – For those grieving the opioid crisis, a sliver of hope: America's use of prescription opioids fell more than ever last year amid a government crackdown on drugmakers and pharmacists, CNBC reports. Overall use dropped 17% in 2018, the biggest decline on record, according to the health research firm IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. The news comes as prescription-opioid use has fallen 43% since 2011; the average annual drop from 2012 to 2016 was just 4%, per the Pharmacy Times. But it's worth looking under the hood:

  • The IQVIA data "masks a grim reality" about drug use—that many opioid addicts switch to heroin or its synthetic variations, Bloomberg reports. Overdose deaths rose 9.6% from 2016 to 2017, reaching about 47,600, per the CDC.
  • Opioid consumption is still shockingly high, after falling from 72 pills for every US adult in 2011 to 34 pills per adult last year.
  • Spending on drugs spiked 4.5% to $344 billion last year, per the report. Much of that comes from spending on new specialty drugs targeted at ailments like cancer and autoimmune diseases.
  • Opioids have caused a shocking spike in teen and young-adult death rates in recent years, CNBC reported last month. A new study shows that drug-OD death rates jumped 19.75% from 2006 to 2015 for people between 15 and 24.
(Meanwhile, more than 40 states are suing generic drug makers.)

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