More than 16,000 Americans die each year from prescription drug overdoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such deaths have increased more than 300 percent since 1998, while prescribing rates for these drugs quadrupled between 1999 and 2010. Narcotic pain relievers—known as opioids—were involved in 75 percent of the nation’s drug overdoses. Deaths connected to opioid misuse now exceed those from heroin and cocaine combined.
Prescription drug abuse also takes a financial toll, with public and private insurers incurring an estimated $72.5 billion in costs each year because of direct drug costs and medical care that results from the misuse and abuse of opioids and other drugs. In fact, every dollar spent on these prescriptions generates an estimated $41 in related medical claims. Yet health insurers—particularly Medicare and Medicaid—have limited options for curtailing drug overuse and abuse, and physicians and pharmacists have few reliable tools to detect at-risk patients.
The Pew Charitable Trusts recognizes prescription drug abuse as a public health crisis in the United States that must be addressed. Pew’s prescription drug abuse project works to develop and support policies that will help reduce the inappropriate use of prescription drugs while ensuring that patients with legitimate medical needs have access to effective pain management.
Methadone, a synthetic opioid historically used to treat heroin addiction, is also prescribed for chronic, noncancer pain. While methadone accounts for just 2 percent of opioid pain reliever prescriptions, it is responsible for nearly one-third of all overdose deaths. On Nov. 17, the National Conference of State Legislators hosted a webinar featuring Cynthia Reilly, director of The Pew... Read More
More than 16,000 Americans die each year from prescription opioid overdoses, with a disproportionate number of these deaths attributed to methadone. Now, the federal government is calling on states to consider removing methadone from the list of preferred drugs used as pain relievers for Medicaid patients. This proposal is part of a larger White House initiative to stop the nation’s... Read More
On Oct. 15, Cynthia Reilly, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ prescription drug abuse project, submitted written testimony to the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care regarding policy proposals intended to help curb prescription opioid abuse. Read More