New data shows that Connecticut has recorded one of the most significant reductions in opioid prescriptions over the past four years – although its number of drug-related overdose deaths continues to rise.
The Connecticut State Medical Society and the American Medical Association cited research by North Carolina health-data provider IQVIA – formerly Quintiles IMS Holdings Inc. in Danbury – stating that opioid prescriptions fell 22 percent nationally between 2013 and 2017. Connecticut’s opioid-prescription rate fell 27.3 percent in the same period, and dropped 11 percent in 2017 alone, CSMS said.
The report states that 2,512,161 opioid prescriptions given out in Connecticut in 2013; 2,476,310 in 2014; 2,297,397 in 2015; 2,050,162 in 2016; and 1,825,478 in 2017.
New England as a whole was a leader in the downward national trend. Rhode Island posted a 33.6 percent four-year decline in opioid prescriptions; followed by New Hampshire, down 33.2 percent; Maine and Massachusetts, both down 32 percent; and Vermont, down 26 percent.
While new scripts are down, overall drug deaths in Connecticut nearly tripled over six years, from 357 in 2012 to 1,038 in 2017, thanks mainly to the introduction of fentanyl. Of those 1,038 deaths, 677 involved fentanyl, either by itself or with at least one other drug.
Dr. Patrice A. Harris, chair of AMA’s opioid task force, said that while the drop in prescriptions was laudable, “This is tempered by the fact that deaths related to heroin and illicit fentanyl are increasing at a staggering rate, and deaths related to prescription opioids also continue to rise.”
“These statistics again prove that simply decreasing prescription opioid supplies will not end the epidemic,” Harris continued. “We need well-designed initiatives that bring together public and private insurers, policymakers, public health infrastructure, and communities with the shared goal to improve access and coverage for comprehensive pain management and treatment for substance use disorders.”
Among all states, West Virginia posted the biggest four-year decline in opioid scripts, down 37.6 percent. South Dakota, where the volume of opioid scripts annually is the among the nation’s fewest, had the smallest script drop at 9.9 percent.
IQVIA also reported a rise in new treatment starts for U.S. patients addicted to opioids, nearly doubling from 44,000 in Dec. 2015 to 82,000 in Dec. 2017.