As opioid prescriptions fall, prescriptions for drugs to treat addiction rise
April 20, 2018
The number of new monthly prescriptions for medications that treat opioid addiction nearly doubled over the past two years, according to new data, while prescriptions for opioid painkillers continued to decline.
The changing calculus reflects a stepping up of efforts among policymakers and the medical establishment to address the nation’s opioid epidemic, which is killing more than 115 people every day. But it also underscores questions about whether some pain patients are now being undertreated, and whether tightened prescribing over the last few years has contributed to the surge in overdose deaths from heroin and especially fentanyl.
Although the number of people taking medications to combat addiction is rising, it remains a small fraction of the roughly 2.6 million people believed to suffer from “opioid use disorder,” or addiction. The federal government has estimated that about 20 percent of them are getting some kind of treatment, but of those, only about a third are getting buprenorphine, naltrexone or methadone, the three medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration.