Two new reports from the CDC regarding prescription painkillers received extensive coverage in several major US newspapers and websites. Most articles discuss both reports, and nearly all of the articles quote CDC director Tom Frieden. USA Today reports that a report from the CDC indicates that “prescribing rates” for opioid painkillers “vary widely by state.” Researchers found that “providers in” Alabama, the state with the highest rate, “wrote 143 prescriptions for every 100 residents, while providers in Hawaii, the state with the lowest rate, wrote 52 for every 100 people, nearly three times fewer.” Frieden said, “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.” Frieden “says the medications ‘can be an important tool for doctors to use … but they are not the answer every time someone has pain.’”
The New York Times reports that a separate CDC report indicated that “prescription drug overdose deaths in Florida fell sharply after the state began strengthening its prescribing laws and stepping up enforcement.” The study’s investigators found that “the death rate from prescription drug overdoses in Florida fell by 23 percent from 2010 to 2012, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and by more than half in the same period for oxycodone, one of the most widely abused drugs and one that has been at the heart of the health crisis.” Dr. Frieden said, “This tells us that policies and enforcement work.”
The Los Angeles Times reports that the drop “in painkiller deaths in Florida is one of the first signs that efforts to address the crisis may be gaining ground, Frieden said.” In an email to Michael Botticelli, acting head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Frieden wrote, “The results from Florida show that state action can make a difference, and confirms the tight correlation between prescribing and deaths.” Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports, however, that “Frieden called it ‘unlikely’ that other states mirrored Florida’s decline.” He said, “In at least one other state, we saw a decrease, but it was counterbalanced by an increase in heroin deaths, almost completely.”
TIME reports, “The CDC says states should increase use of prescription drug monitoring programs that track painkiller prescriptions by state.”
From the news release of the American Association for Justice.