Will fewer prescriptions signal positive progress?
An update on how seniors are faring on the opioid front
In response to a newly released study on Medicare Part D patients, media is reporting a ‘turning point’ in the opioids crisis. Research from the Office of the Inspector General reveals that, compared to 2016, opioid prescriptions were down by over 10% in 2018.
Over the past 2 years, medications used to treat opioid addiction also rose significantly. In particular, the drug Naloxone (used to revive overdose patients) saw a massive 22% increase. Together, these numbers indicate a step in the right direction for Medicare Part D beneficiaries – especially those vulnerable to opioid misuse and addiction.
End of an epidemic?
Although Medicare Part D still shells out in excess of $3 billion annually for opioids, long-term data shows a slow but sure decline in prescriptions. The news doesn’t come as a huge surprise, as the Trump administration has demonstrated a very aggressive approach to containing the problem through various legislative measures.
Of course, long-term care facilities are exempt from many of today’s tighter prescription restrictions. This includes the 7-day supply limit enforced for new patients. So, while many of our residents desperately need medication to relieve suffering, others remain at risk for dependency (among other deadly outcomes).
Facilities must also deal with the issue of diversion as it relates to staff and the families of discharged patients. As most of us know, inappropriate and over-prescription of opioids leads to a heap of negative consequences. When it comes to the 65+ set, it’s important to weigh the drug’s benefits against its risks.
As we digest the OIG’s latest findings, officials remind us to be cautious while still considering the legitimate needs of Medicare Part D patients. “The numbers are going in the right direction,” says lead researcher Miriam Anderson. “But this is a national crisis and we must remain vigilant and continue to fight this epidemic and ensure that opioids are prescribed and used appropriately.”
For further reading on opioids in nursing homes, visit The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine at PALTC.org.