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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, April 21, 2018 1:00 am

Results encouraging in battling opioids

Three pieces of good news in the war against the opioid epidemic:

• A reported steep drop in the rate of opioid prescriptions last year is the result not just of new rules but of myriad efforts to educate doctors and patients.

Americans are awakening to the dangers of painkiller abuse, and that new awareness will, in the long run, save many lives. The encouraging statistics reported this week by the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science – 10 percent fewer prescriptions filled at pharmacies nationwide – are a sign of progress in a battle that is far from over.

Increasing for years, opioid prescriptions reached their peak nationally in 2011 and have been declining since.

The IQVIA study didn't break out prescription rates by state, but data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control show Indiana prescription rates dropping since 2012 but still well above the national average.

In 2016, the most recent year available, there were 84 opioid prescriptions per 100 residents in Indiana, according to the CDC. Nationally, the rate was 66.5 prescriptions per 100 persons. That's one reason our state has a particularly high rate of opioid deaths, and unfortunately that is unlikely to change for a while.

• The addicts created by pain-pill abuse often turn to heroin if they can't obtain legal opioids – and that may expose them to even more dangerous substances, such as fentanyl. So for now, the need to focus on providing adequate resources and facilities for addiction treatment remains paramount.

To that end, the Trump administration this week released another $10.9 million to Indiana through the 21st Century Cures Act – the same amount the state received last year for prevention and treatment and to make more Narcan available to revive overdose victims.

• Those who suffer from chronic pain are sometimes forgotten in the effort to prevent addiction. This week, Indiana's U.S. senators, Republican Todd Young and Democrat Joe Donnelly, reached across the aisle to introduce two new bipartisan bills to address that aspect of the crisis. The bills would speed up federal testing and approval processes for new pain medicines and treatments.

“It's clear there is need for new, alternative treatments for those battling chronic or acute pain,” Donnelly said in a release from the two senators' offices. “We must accelerate the development of non-addictive pain medications and treatment,” Young said.