There is a glimmer of hope with regard to the U.S. opioid crisis. In 2017, the number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers filled in the nation fell, showing their biggest drop in 25 years, according to a IQVIA™ Institute for Human Data Science Study released in April. The decline comes amid increasing legal restrictions and public awareness of the dangers of addiction.
The federal government and about half the states have enacted restrictions, such as limiting the dose or duration of opioids that can be prescribed. Insurers and drug stores began imposing similar limits on opioid use for acute pain, as opposed to cancer and chronic pain patients. The Drug Enforcement Administration increased prosecution of heavy prescribers. And numerous medical groups have issued guidelines urging prescribers to offer other pain-management options when possible and to limit doses and duration of opioid prescriptions.
Unfortunately, despite stricter regulation and enforcement measures, deaths from drug overdoses have continued to increase in the U.S. and emergency rooms saw a big jump in overdoses from opioids last year, according to government data.