Vital Signs: Variation Among States in Prescribing of Opioid Pain Relievers and Benzodiazepines — United States, 2012
From US CDC July 1, 2014
Background: Overprescribing of opioid pain relievers (OPR) can result in multiple adverse health outcomes, including fatal overdoses. Interstate variation in rates of prescribing OPR and other prescription drugs prone to abuse, such as benzodiazepines, might indicate areas where prescribing patterns need further evaluation.
Methods: CDC analyzed a commercial database (IMS Health) to assess the potential for improved prescribing of OPR and other drugs. CDC calculated state rates and measures of variation for OPR, long-acting/extended-release (LA/ER) OPR, high-dose OPR, and benzodiazepines.
Results: In 2012, prescribers wrote 82.5 OPR and 37.6 benzodiazepine prescriptions per 100 persons in the United States. State rates varied 2.7-fold for OPR and 3.7-fold for benzodiazepines. For both OPR and benzodiazepines, rates were higher in the South census region, and three Southern states were two or more standard deviations above the mean. Rates for LA/ER and high-dose OPR were highest in the Northeast. Rates varied 22-fold for one type of OPR, oxymorphone.
Conclusions: Factors accounting for the regional variation are unknown. Such wide variations are unlikely to be attributable to underlying differences in the health status of the population. High rates indicate the need to identify prescribing practices that might not appropriately balance pain relief and patient safety.
Implications for Public Health: State policy makers might reduce the harms associated with abuse of prescription drugs by implementing changes that will make the prescribing of these drugs more cautious and more consistent with clinical recommendations.
Prescribers wrote 82.5 OPR prescriptions and 37.6 benzodiazepine prescriptions per 100 persons in the United States in 2012 (Table). LA/ER OPR accounted for 12.5%, and high-dose OPR accounted for 5.1% of the estimated 258.9 million OPR prescriptions written nationwide. Prescribing rates varied widely by state for all drug types. For all OPR combined, the prescribing rate in Alabama was 2.7 times the rate in Hawaii. The high/low ratio was greater for LA/ER OPR and high-dose OPR compared with all OPR together: for high-dose OPR, state rates ranged 4.6-fold (Delaware versus Texas), and for LA/ER OPR, state rates ranged 5.3-fold (Maine versus Texas). State rates ranged 3.7-fold (West Virginia versus Hawaii) for benzodiazepines. For both OPR and benzodiazepines, Alabama, Tennessee, and West Virginia were the three highest-prescribing states. Among the OPR drugs, interstate variation was greatest for oxymorphone (CV = 0.72, IQ = 2.50, high/low = 21.9). OPR prescribing rates correlated with benzodiazepine prescribing rates (r = 0.80; p<0.01).
The distribution of state prescribing rates was skewed toward higher rates (Figure 1). For both OPR and benzodiazepine rates, Alabama, Tennessee, and West Virginia were ≥2 SDs above the mean. For LA/ER opioids, Maine and Delaware were ≥2 SDs above the mean. For high-dose OPR, Delaware, Tennessee, and Nevada were ≥2 SDs above the mean. Texas's rate for LA/ER OPR was the only rate ≥2 SDs below the mean for any category.
The South region had the highest rate of prescribing OPR and benzodiazepines (Figure 2). The Northeast had the highest rate for high-dose OPR and LA/ER OPR, although high rates also were observed in individual states in the South and West. In the Northeast, 17.8% of OPR prescribed were LA/ER OPR. States in the South ranked highest for all individual opioids except for hydromorphone, fentanyl, and methadone, for which the highest rates were in Vermont, North Dakota, and Oregon, respectively.
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LINK: 50-State Chart