Racial disparities in prescribing opioids for chronic pain

Yale researchers have identified racial disparities in the treatment of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain. Black patients who receive opioids long-term are more likely than whites to be tested for illicit drug use. Of those who test positive, blacks are more likely to have their opioid prescriptions discontinued, said the researchers.

More than 40% of opioid overdose deaths in the United States are attributed to prescription opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin and Percocet. Efforts to curb the crisis have focused in part on limiting opioid overprescribing. Less attention has been paid to how providers monitor and treat patients once opioids are initiated.

The Yale-led research team analyzed data from the electronic health records of more than 15,000 patients who received opioids from the Veterans Administration between 2000 and 2010. The researchers reviewed whether patients were screened for illicit drug use after starting opioids, which is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also looked at whether opioids were discontinued in those who tested positive for either marijuana or cocaine.

Full story at Science Daily

Cigna Will Stop Covering OxyContin in Effort to Reduce Inappropriate Use

Health insurer Cigna announced this week it will stop covering the prescription opioid OxyContin in an effort to reduce inappropriate use of the drug. Instead it will cover an equivalent drug less vulnerable to being misused.

The alternate drug is Xtampza ER, made by Collegium Pharmaceutical Inc. Xtampza ER cannot be made more fast-acting through cutting or crushing, Cigna said. The change will go into effect January 1, 2018, Reuters reports.

Full story at drugfree.org

American Indian Tribal Leaders Meet With Justice Department About Opioid Epidemic

The U.S. Justice Department is scheduled to meet with American Indian tribal leaders from northern New Mexico about the opioid epidemic, the Associated Press reports.

Opioid addiction has had a large impact on American Indian communities across the country, the article notes. A survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found use of heroin and OxyContin among American Indian students was about two to three times higher than the national averages from 2009 to 2012.

Full story on American Indian tribes and opioid epidemic at drugfree.org

Prescription Drug Monitoring Databases Help States Fight Opioid Epidemic

Prescription drug monitoring databases are assisting states in battling the opioid epidemic, according to The Wall Street Journal.

A recent study found there was more than a 30 percent decrease in the rate of prescribing Schedule II opioids (such as Oxycontin and Percocet) in two dozen states with such monitoring programs.

Full story of prescription drug monitoring databases and opioid abuse at drugfree.org

Federal Effort to Curb Painkiller Prescribing Faces Opposition

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) face stiff opposition to its effort to reduce prescribing of opioid painkillers, the Associated Press reports. Critics of new prescribing guidelines include drug manufacturers, industry-funded groups and some public health officials.

The guidelines, which were originally scheduled to be released this month, are designed to reverse the increase in deadly overdoses of opioid painkillers such as Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet. They are not binding.

Opponents of the guidelines say they have been largely written behind closed doors, the AP notes. Officials from the Food and Drug Administration and other health agencies called the guidelines “shortsighted,” relying on “low-quality evidence.” The officials said they plan to file a formal complaint.

Full story of curbing painkiller prescriptions at drugfree.org