About 9% fewer Americans are using prescription opioids than were five years ago, but those people are taking more of the drugs for longer periods of time, according to a study by pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts reported in FiercePharma. And nearly one-third are being put in serious risk of overdose death by taking the opioids alongside prescriptions for benzodiazepine sedatives, stated the New York Times.
Express Scripts “looked at pharmacy claims from 6.8 million Americans who filled at least one prescription for an opioid between 2009 and 2013,” reported FiercePharma. “Nearly half the patients who took opiate painkillers for more than 30 days during the first year of the study continued to use them for three years or longer. Almost half of chronic opioid users took only short-acting meds instead of longer-acting drugs, increasing their risk for addiction.”
“The study also uncovered some lax — and potentially dangerous — prescribing habits,” continued FiercePharma. “About 60% of patients taking opiates were also prescribed drugs that don’t mix with the powerful painkillers. Nearly 27% of people used multiple opiate painkillers at the same time. And about one in three took an antianxiety med along with an opioid–a common cause of overdose deaths, the report points out.”
Long-term painkiller use on the rise, with more patients taking dangerous combos (FiercePharma, December 9, 2014)
Patients Prescribed Narcotic Painkillers Use More of Them for Longer, Study Finds (New York Times, December 9, 2014)