Friday, January 18, 2019

Opioid Prescriptions Are More Common in Rural Areas

Rural areas have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic. The injury is, in part, self-inflicted. Primary care physicians in rural areas are more likely than those in urban areas to prescribe opioids for their patients, reports the CDC in a study of opioid prescribing rates.

CDC researchers examined electronic prescriptions written by 31,422 primary health care providers during the January 2014 to March 2017 time period. Their findings document the big differences in opioid prescription rates by a county's urban-rural status...

Percent of patients receiving opioid prescriptions, January 2014—March 2017 average
9.6% in rural counties
9.4% in micropolitan counties
7.7% in small metro areas
6.7% in medium metro areas
5.6% in large fringe metros
5.2% in large central metros

The CDC undertook the study to determine whether the 2016 release of its Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain had helped to reduce opioid prescriptions. It did. In every type of county, the opioid prescription rate declined over the time period. In rural counties, the percentage of patients who received opioid prescriptions fell from 10.3 percent in 2014 to 9.0 percent during the March 2016 to March 2017 time period. In large central metropolitan counties, the rate fell from 5.4 to 5.0 percent.

"As less densely populated areas appear to indicate both substantial progress in decreasing opioid prescribing and ongoing need for reduction," the researchers conclude, "community health care practices and intervention programs must continue to be tailored to community characteristics."

Source: CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Opioid Prescribing Rates in Nonmetropolitan and Metropolitan Counties among Primary Care Providers Using an Electronic Health Record System—United States, 2014–2017

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