Opioid prescriptions saw steep decline in 2018: report

Washington (AFP) –


Opioid prescriptions in the United States dropped 17 percent in 2018, the biggest single-year decline in more than quarter century, according to a report published Thursday.

The drop signals a more cautious approach by doctors in the wake of a headline-grabbing abuse epidemic that has become a priority for politicians and has led to a recent surge of legal cases.

Prescription opioid volume has declined 43 percent since it peaked 2011, the report by health research firm Iqvia said.

But overall volumes being dispensed remain high. In 1992, the average number of pills consumed was 22 per adult. By 2011, that figure rose to 72, before dropping back down to 34 last year.

Opioid overdoses have reduced life expectancy in the US since 2014.

In 2017, about 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, 10 percent more than in 2016, though only part of the figure came from opioids.

Opioids include the "natural" morphine and codeine (which are also referred to as "opiates") and semi-synthetic drugs such as OxyContin (generic name oxycodone) and Vicodin (generic name hydrocodone) that are available on prescription but also on the black market.

Last month, the US Justice Department announced charges against 60 people, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists alleged to have illegally written hundreds of thousands of opioid prescriptions.