Courtesy of IQVIA report

HARTFORD, CT — While the rate of drug overdose deaths in Connecticut keeps climbing, a new report shows the state has one of the most significant reductions in opioid prescribing — 27.3 percent over the last four years — and saw an 11 percent reduction between 2016 to 2017. 

According to Dr. Patrice A. Harris, chair of the American Medical Society (AMA) Opioid Task Force, “A 22 percent decrease in opioid prescriptions nationally between 2013 and 2017 reflects the fact that physicians and other healthcare professionals are increasingly judicious when prescribing opioids.”

The report was prepared by IQVIA, a global provider of information, innovative technology solutions and contract research services focused on helping healthcare clients find better solutions for patients.

In Connecticut, the report states that in 2013 there were 2,512,161 opioid prescriptions given out; 2,476,310 in 2014; 2,297,397 in 2015; 2,050,162 in 2016; and 1,825,478 in 2017.

“It is notable that every state has experienced a decrease, but this is tempered by the fact that deaths related to heroin and illicit fentanyl are increasing at a staggering rate, and deaths related to prescription opioids also continue to rise,” Harris said.

“These statistics again prove that simply decreasing prescription opioid supplies will not end the epidemic,” Harris said.

“We need well-designed initiatives that bring together public and private insurers, policymakers, public health infrastructure, and communities with the shared goal to improve access and coverage for comprehensive pain management and treatment for substance use disorders,” Harris added.

The number of drug-related overdose deaths in Connecticut topped 1,000 in 2017, the highest number since the opioid epidemic began.

Overall drug deaths in the state have nearly tripled over six years, from 357 in 2012 to 1,038 in 2017. Of those 1,038 deaths, 677 involved fentanyl, either by itself or with at least one other drug.

The deaths by drug overdoses have continued to spike despite continued efforts by Connecticut legislators to crack down on opioid prescription abuse — primarily by limiting the length of a prescription in days.

In 2014, the Connecticut State Medical Society (CSMS) launched an Opioid Committee and has worked with the AMA and other state medical societies to address legislation and regulation ranging from developing effective prescription drug monitoring programs, continuing medical education, and restrictions on treatment for opioid use disorder as well as enactment of naloxone access.

To date more than 3,000 clinicians and physicians have attended an educational program regarding opioids.

“We are proud of the work Connecticut’s physicians have done,” Dr. Gregory Shangold, co-chair of the CSMS Opioid Committee said. “While we have made some progress, there is more work and public education needed to overcome this epidemic.”

The opioid reports show, nationwide, the following:

— Continuing an ongoing nationwide trend, 22.2 percent fewer opioid prescriptions were filled in 2017 than had been filled in 2013;

— Every state in the nation has shown a significant reduction in opioid analgesic prescriptions since 2013, and every state showed a decline in the last year;

— In 2017, a total of 196,001,292 opioid prescriptions were filled in the USA, representing an 8.9 percent decrease from the prior year — the sharpest 1-year decrease observed;

— Differences between high-use and low-use states are far less stark than had been observed in prior years;

— Many states with the most profound opioid abuse problems have exhibited the greatest decline in opioid prescribing. Five states have shown decreases of over 30 percent since 2013.