As the opioid epidemic continues to grow, new reports continue to underscore the gravity of the epidemic and highlight specific concerns related to women's health, disparities in income and data regarding opioid-related hospitalizations. As research continues to be published, however, the AMA notes that there remains a vast treatment gap and barriers to treatment for patients with opioid-use disorders as well as barriers for patients with pain to access non-opioid and non-pharmacologic care.
The new studies include:
- Opioid mortality undercounted. A study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that reports from death certificates frequently did not include a specific drug, but that when corrected, opioid-related deaths were 24 percent greater in 2014 and those for heroin were 22 percent greater.
- Women's overdose and death rate growing faster than men's. A new report (PDF) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health found that "between 1999 and 2015, the rate of deaths from prescription opioid overdoses increased 471 percent among women, compared to an increase of 218 percent among men." In addition, the report found that "heroin deaths among women increased at more than twice the rate than among men" and that there was an 850 percent increase in synthetic opioid-related deaths in women between 1999 and 2015. The report not only examines the data, but provides information on some of the unique issues facing women, including their role as caregivers, the role of the criminal justice system and health insurance-coverage issues.
- Opioid-related hospitalizations. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality issued an interactive report that provides a state-by-state look at opioid-related hospital care, including hospitalization trends between 2009 and 2014 and hospitalizations in 2014 broken down by patient age, sex, geographic area and income. Between 2005 and 2014, opioid-related inpatient stays increased more than 64 percent, and emergency department visits increased by nearly 100 percent.
Visit the AMA opioid microsite and view select national education resources for physicians and other health professionals.
The current issue of the Wisconsin Medical Journal is highlighting the opioid epidemic for Wisconsin physicians. In "The National Opioid Epidemic: Local, State and National Responses," Joel M. Prince, MD, and William B. Seiden, MD, discuss several of the policy interventions in Wisconsin as well as education efforts by numerous groups, including the Wisconsin School of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AMA and others. Sridhar V. Vasudevan, MD, provides a close look at "Opioid Use for Treatment of Chronic Pain: An Overview and Treatment Guideline for Injured Workers."
The journal also provides original research in "The Use of a Statewide Prescription Drug Monitoring Program by Emergency Department Physicians," by Jennifer L. Hernandez-Meier, PhD, Rachel Muscott, MD, and Amy Zosel, MD. This study, which had survey questionnaires returned by 63 emergency physicians, found that nearly all of the respondents found the prescription drug-monitoring program information useful, and that more than "70 percent reported writing fewer prescriptions for some medications since implementation of the program." At the same time, respondents said that lack of time, a complex login process and the user interface were barriers to more effective use.
Access the journal and other Wisconsin-specific resources through the AMA opioid microsite.