Medicare Places Few Restrictions on Opioid Prescriptions: Study

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Medicare has not put significant restrictions in place for opioid prescriptions, despite recent government guidelines that recommend such limits, according to a new study. Yale researchers analyzed Medicare coverage for opioids. They found that in 2015, one-third of opioids were prescribed with no restrictions, such as prior authorization or setting quantity limits, HealthDay reports. The study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine , also found a modest increase in Medicare coverage of opioids between 2006 and 2015. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines that recommend primary care providers avoid prescribing opioid painkillers for patients with chronic pain. The guidelines state that doctors who determine that opioid painkillers are needed should prescribe the lowest possible dose for the shortest amount of time.
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FDA Requires Makers of Fast-Acting Opioids to Pay for Doctor Training

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will require makers of fast-acting opioids to fund voluntary training for healthcare professionals who prescribe the drugs, according to Reuters . The training will include education on safe prescribing practices and non-opioid alternatives. The FDA informed 74 manufacturers of immediate-release opioids that they will have to fund training for doctors, nurses and pharmacists. Companies that make extended-release and long-acting formulations of opioids already must pay for training of healthcare professionals. The FDA is also considering some type of mandatory education on opioids, the article notes. According to the FDA, approximately 160 million prescriptions a year – about 90 percent of all opioid pain medications prescribed in the United States – are for fast-acting formulations.
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CVS Sets Limits on Opioid Prescriptions

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CVS announced it will set limits on opioid prescriptions and add in-store disposal units for consumers so they can drop off unwanted and unused medications. CVS said it wants to ensure that opioids are being prescribed and used appropriately, consistent with guidelines for prescribing opioids set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a company news release, CVS will limit the supply of opioids dispensed for certain acute prescriptions to seven days; limit the daily dosage of opioids dispensed based on the strength of the opioid; and require the use of immediate-release formulations of opioids before extended-release opioids are dispensed. USA Today reports the company will instruct pharmacists to contact doctors when they come across prescriptions that appear to offer more medication than would be deemed necessary for a patient’s recovery.
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Many Drug Dealers Test Strength of Synthetic Opioids on Customers

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Many drug dealers use their customers to test the strength of the synthetic opioids they sell, the Associated Press reports. They want the drugs to be strong enough to keep their customers coming back, but not strong enough to kill them. Local dealers take fentanyl made in Chinese labs and use powders such as baby formula to increase its volume and street value. “It is sick and awful that dealers are treating people this way,” said Bradley Ray, Director of the Center for Criminal Justice Research at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, who studies overdose prevention. “It is sad that things have come to this. (Testers’) addictions will push them to take that; they’re not thinking clearly.”
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F**k you, Opioids

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The following is posted with permission from by Peter Kulbacki, Owner and Licensed Manager at Brunswick Memorial, Inc. What am I supposed to say when we get a call from someone telling me that a loved one has passed from an overdose? I’m sorry? Please accept my condolences? Yeah, that’s what I say, but you know what? My visceral response when I hang up the phone is F**K you opioids. Those who know me know I’m not prone to profanity, and as the consummate professional, I cannot say this to the parents, children, siblings, friends, and neighbors that we serve in the aftermath of opioid addiction. But I want to scream it out loud. F**K you heroin. I write this as a son, spouse, parent, brother, grandfather, neighbor, friend, and funeral director. Folks, we have a problem, a very real problem right here in our backyard, in every town. Every...
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DEA Takes Action Against Doctors for Prescribing Opioids to Patients who Overdose

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is taking action against an increasing number of doctors for prescribing opioids to patients who overdose, according to CNN . The DEA took action against 479 doctors in 2016, compared with 88 doctors in 2011. Most people who misuse prescription opioids get them for free from a friend or relative, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Those who are at highest risk of overdose (using prescription opioids nonmedically 200 or more days a year) get them in ways that are different from those who use them less frequently,” the CDC notes on its website. Among those at highest risk of overdose, 27 percent get opioids using their own prescriptions. A study published last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine found 91 percent of people who survived an opioid overdose were able to get another prescription for opioids.
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Amount of Opioids Prescribed Declined from 2010-2015, But Remains High

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There was an overall decline in the amount of opioids prescribed in the United States between 2010 and 2015, but the quantity of prescriptions is still extremely high, according to a new government report. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the amount of opioids prescribed was three times higher in 2015 than in 1999, The New York Times reports. The amount of opioids prescribed varies county by county, the CDC found. Half of U.S. counties have seen a decrease in the amount of opioids prescribed from 2010 to 2015. The highest prescribing counties still dispense six times more opioids than the lowest prescribing counties. Far more opioids are prescribed per capita in parts of Maine, Nevada and Tennessee than in most of Iowa, Minnesota and Texas.
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Some Patients Taking Opioids for Post-Operative Pain at Risk for Long-Term Addiction

Some Patients Taking Opioids for Post-Operative Pain at Risk for Long-Term Addiction
Some patients prescribed opioids for pain relief after surgery may face a high risk for developing a long-term addiction to the medicine, a new study concludes. The study included more than 36,000 surgery patients, who were followed for six months. None had taken opioids before their surgery. The researchers found 5 to 6 percent of patients continued to fill prescriptions for opioids long after what would be considered normal surgical recovery, HealthDay reports. Rates of new chronic use did not differ between patients who had major or minor surgery, the researchers wrote in JAMA Surgery . This suggests patients continue to use these medications for something other than treating pain from surgery, they said. Risk of long-term opioid use was highest among smokers, patients who had struggled with alcohol and/or drug use in the past, those previously diagnosed with depression or anxiety, and those who had a history of chronic...
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Opioid Prescription Duration Predict Chronic Use, Study Says

Opioid Prescription Duration Predict Chronic Use, Study Says
The duration of a prescription may give clues into how long a person ends up using a narcotic painkiller, a new study finds. The study in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report finds that when you use a narcotic painkiller for just one day, you have only a 6 percent chance of still using that drug a year later. But when that prescription is for eight or more days, your likelihood of using the drug a year later jumps to 13.5 percent. And although just less than 7 percent of all prescriptions exceed a month's dosage, using for 31 days or more increases your chances of long-term opioid use to 29.9 percent. “The initial prescription a clinician writes has a pretty profound impact on a person’s [likelihood] for being a long-term opioid user,” said Bradley Martin, co-author of the study and head of the...
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Trump Administration Will Face Hurdles in Reducing Opioid Overdose Deaths

Trump Administration Will Face Hurdles in Reducing Opioid Overdose Deaths
President-Elect Donald Trump, who has pledged to solve the nation’s opioid crisis, faces significant hurdles in achieving that campaign promise, according to The Wall Street Journal. Much of the work of preventing drug overdose deaths is done at the local level, the article notes. Newer and deadlier versions of opioids are continually appearing. In addition, complex regulatory changes are often needed to rework federal drug policies. Trump has vowed to dismantle parts of the Affordable Care Act, which requires millions of subsidized health plans to cover treatment for substance use and mental health disorders. He has vowed to prosecute illegal drug traffickers more aggressively, and to close shipping loopholes that he says allow the Chinese to mail synthetic fentanyl into the country. He also called for reducing the amounts of legal prescription opioids that can be manufactured and sold in the United States, and increasing access to naloxone for first...
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