Painkiller prescribing varies greatly from state to state

July 30, 2014

A patient’s chance of being prescribed highly addictive painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin can depend on where they live, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A patient’s chance of being prescribed highly addictive painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin can depend on where they live, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the CDC report, in 2012 U.S. prescribers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers. However, the per-person prescription rate for painkillers was nearly three times higher in some states.

"The bottom line is we're not seeing consistent, effective, appropriate prescribing of painkillers across the nation, and this is a problem because of the deaths that result," said Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director. "Overdoses from opioid narcotics are a serious problem across the country and we know opioid overdoses tend to be highest where opioids get the highest use." 

In Alabama and Tennessee, which have the highest painkiller prescription rates, the report found that prescribers wrote 143 painkiller prescriptions for every 100 residents. Hawaii had the lowest rate, with 52 painkiller prescriptions written for every 100 people.

Painkiller prescription rates were also high in West Virginia (138 prescriptions per 100 residents) and Kentucky (128 prescriptions per 100 residents); while the rates were relatively low in California and New York (57 and 60 painkiller prescriptions per 100 people).

 

The CDC said 46 people die each day in America from painkiller overdoses. The agency points to states like Florida which have taken aggressive steps to reduce overdose deaths by closely monitoring painkiller prescribing and dispensing.

CDC said Florida experienced a 23% reduction in prescription drug deaths from 2010 to 2012 by cracking down on pill-mill doctors, bogus medical clinics, and through the use of a state-wide prescription monitoring system.