Fewer patients are filling prescriptions for opioid painkillers — but those who are filling them are filling more prescriptions with more days of medication per prescription — according to a report by Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefits company.
The company examined pharmacy claims for 6.8 million Americans who filled at least one opioid prescription for pain from 2009 to 2013. Among the report’s other findings:
• Of patients taking dangerous drug mixtures, nearly a third had prescriptions for both an opiate and a benzodiazepine. Some 8% were taking the “Houston Cocktail,” a mixture of an opioid, a muscle relaxant, and a benzodiazepine.
• Among small U.S. cities ( less than 28,000 residents) with the highest opioid prescribing rates, between 12% and 18% of the populations had filled opioid prescriptions. The national average is closer to 4%.
• Roughly half of people who took opiates for more than 30 days kept using them for at least 3 years.