“Nearly 80,000 prescribers throughout the United States wrote more than 6.5 million prescriptions for nearly 500 million dosage units of oxycodone and hydrocodone products in 2015, which is enough to supply every Pennsylvanian with 37 pills,” the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Philadelphia Field Division wrote last week in a report entitled “Pennsylvania Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Trends, 2014-2015.”
“The abuse and diversion of pharmaceutical drugs, particularly prescription opioids, in Pennsylvania is of grave concern,” the report began. “In 2015, more than 53 percent of more than 3,400 drug-related overdose deaths in Pennsylvania indicated the presence of a prescription opioid.”
Pennsylvania’s legislators strengthened the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) in August, although law enforcement and public health officials are concerned that cracking down too harshly on illicit prescriptions could unintentionally drive users to the more dangerous heroin and fentanyl.
Officials say that flaws in the state’s original PDMP led to Pennsylvania’s emergence as a “regional supply area for prescription opioids diverted for non-medical use.” Neighboring states, including Ohio, West Virginia, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware, enforce stricter PDMP laws with mandatory reporting and querying requirements by practitioners and pharmacies, according to the the DEA report. In contrast, Pennsylvania’s original PDMP “unintentionally enabled ‘doctor-shopping’ patients, rogue doctors, and pharmacies to saturate the user market with diverted opioids for sale and abuse.”
“It is my belief that the revamped PDMP is a positive step in addressing the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic that has affected Pennsylvania,” said Special Agent in Charge Gary Tuggle of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Philadelphia Field Division.
According to the report, Pennsylvania-based prescribers represented 55 percent of the 79,706 prescribers of oxycodone and hydrocodone products, yet their prescriptions accounted for approximately 96 percent of the oxycodone and hydrocodone dosage units dispensed by Pa. pharmacies in 2015. Approximately 98 percent of the oxycodone and hydrocodone dosage units prescribed by Pennsylvania-based practitioners were dispensed to patients reporting Pennsylvania addresses.
After Pennsylvanians, individuals reporting addresses of bordering states (New Jersey, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland) had the highest numbers of oxycodone and hydrocodone prescriptions issued by a Pennsylvania prescriber and filled in Pennsylvania.
Leave a Comment