According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 48,000 people in the U.S. died from an opioid overdose in 2017, the highest number ever recorded. People dependent on prescription opioids are 40 times more likely to become dependent on heroin. Prescription opioid misuse, overdose, and dependence also takes a financial toll, accounting for more than $78 billion a year in health care, criminal justice, and lost productivity costs. Yet insurers—particularly Medicare and Medicaid—have limited options for curtailing the misuse of these drugs, and prescribers need better tools to detect which patients may be at risk of harm.
Pew develops and supports policies to reduce the inappropriate use of prescription drugs while ensuring that patients have access to effective pain management.