Opioid Scripts Are Down, Overdoses Remain the Same
The Tennessee Medical Association says a new report shows a 13.3% decrease in opioid prescriptions in the state beween 2017 and 2018.
Figures from IQVIA, which uses prescription information to measure market and product demand, also shows Tennessee has seen a 32.3% drop in prescriptions for opioids since 2013.
The TMA says the data shows Tennessee did a little better than the national average in curbing opioid prescriptions during a recent 12-month period, and is on par with other states for a five-year downward trend. TMA officials believe educating doctors and patients of addiction problems related to opioids has helped lower the number of prescriptions, as has Tennessee’s Controlled Substance Monitoring Database.
Dave Chaney, TMA’s vice president, said the new numbers “are encouraging” and show the medical community is doing its part to address the abuse and misuse of prescription opioid drugs. He also said physicians are following new protocols that look to non-opioid solutions for pain management.
“Physicians are following pain management guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from our association,” Chaney said. “These are road maps that try to strike the right balance between pain management and patient safety.”
State Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, said he is pleased to see the number of opioid prescriptions going down in Tennessee, which has seen a serious problem with opioid addiction. Even so, the chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee said he is troubled to hear from state health officials that the number of opioid-related overdose deaths in Tennessee has remained unchanged.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” the senator said Tuesday.
Crowe said recent measures passed by the state General Assembly and reforms made by former Gov. Bill Haslam were successful in shifting opioid prescription use from acute pain to more chronic cases. As a result, many opioid abusers have turned to fentanyl and heroin purchased on the streets.
Both Crowe and Chaney believe Tennessee’s Controlled Substance Monitoring Database has been successful in curbing opioid abuse. Chaney said the CSMD, which was revised in 2018, has seen a “dramatic increase” in queries from health professionals in the past two years.
The American Medical Association Opioid Task Force said those numbers rose from 8.6 million in 2017 to 11.4 million in 2018. The CSMD is the primary tool used to identify overprescribing and prevent patients from “doctor shopping” for opioids.
Chaney said the TMA was supportive of the changes to the CSMD and the General Assembly’s efforts to “do something to address the opioid epidemic” at the regulatory level. He said his organization also cautioned against over-regulating the medical practice and obstructing physicians who are prescribing appropriate pain management measures for their patients.
“We are supportive of tighter legislation to eliminate pill mills without interfering with the care of patients who need pain management,” he said.