Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers in 2012 – many more in some states than in others – according to a Vital Signs report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that highlights the danger of overdose. The report also has an example of a state that reversed its overdose trend.
Health care providers in the highest prescribing state, Alabama, wrote almost three times as many of these prescriptions per person as those in the lowest prescribing state, Hawaii. Most of the highest prescribing states were in the South. Previous research has shown that regional variation in use of prescriptions cannot be explained by the underlying health status of the population.
The Vital Signs report also contains a study highlighting the success of Florida in reversing prescription drug overdose trends. Results showed that after statewide legislative and enforcement actions in 2010 and 2011, the death rate from prescription drug overdose decreased 23 percent between 2010 and 2012. Florida officials had taken these actions in response to a 28 percent increase in the drug overdose death rate over the preceding years (2006-2010).
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