A West Virginia board report says state pharmacies dispensed 31 million fewer controlled substances last year, a trend the board’s acting chief says is due to heightened awareness about prescription medication overdose deaths.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports the decline was the sharpest in a single year since the state started tracking powerful medications.
According to the state Board of Pharmacy’s annual report, the number of prescribed controlled substances declined from 267.2 million to 235.9 million doses, an 11.7 percent drop from 2016 to 2017. That includes prescription painkillers, anti-anxiety medication and amphetamines.
The most prescribed pain medication, hydrocodone, fell by 8.4 million tablets while oxycodone prescriptions decreased by 9.3 million. A board database has tracked the drugs since 2011. Prescriptions of buprenorphine, used to treat people addicted to heroin and prescription opioids, jumped by 1 million doses.
West Virginia has the highest overdose death rate in the nation. Pharmacy board acting executive director Mike Goff said “there’s been more scrutiny by everyone” over controlled substances in the state.
Goff said if a powerful prescription drug is listed as the cause of death, the pharmacy board notifies doctors who wrote the prescriptions and pharmacists who filled them. If a medical professional is linked to a significant number of overdose deaths, medical licensing boards also are alerted about possible overprescribing.
A Gazette-Mail investigation last year of opioid shipments to West Virginia found more than 400 pills for each of the state’s 1.8 million residents over a six-year period.
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