Prescription Pendulum Swings From Pain Pills to Addiction Treatments

According to a report from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, the number of new monthly prescriptions for medications to treat opioid addiction has nearly doubled over the past two years. Still, only a fraction of the 2.6 million people believed to suffer from opioid addiction receive treatment with one of the three U.S. Food and Drug Administration–approved medications – buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone.

Conversely, the number of prescriptions for opioids filled by retail and mail-order pharmacies has dropped substantially since its peak in 2011. The IQVIA report found that prescription opioid volumes declined by 29 percent from 2011 to 2017 – the equivalent of a decrease from 240 billion milligrams to 171 billion milligrams of morphine. Over the course of 2016, high-dose prescriptions dropped by 14.3 percent.

The decline comes amid federal and state laws setting limits on opioid production and prescribing.

Sources: The New York Times, April 19, 2018; AP News, April 19, 2018.