New data show that the number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers filled in the U.S. fell dramatically last year, the Associated Press reports. They showed their biggest drop in 25 years. The decline comes amid increasing legal restrictions and public awareness of the dangers of addiction. Health data firm IQVIA’s Institute for Human Data Science released a report Thursday showing a 9 percent drop nationwide in the number of prescriptions for opioids filled by retail and mail-order pharmacies. All 50 states and the District of Columbia had declines of more than 5 percent. The U.S. is estimated to consume 30 percent of all opioids used worldwide.
“We’re at a really critical moment in the country when everybody’s paying attention to this issue,” said Michael Kleinrock, the institute’s research director. “People really don’t want them if they can avoid them.” There was an even greater drop in total dosage of opioid prescriptions filled in 2017, down 12 percent from 2016. Reasons for the drop include more prescriptions being for a shorter duration, a 7.8 percent decline in new patients starting on opioid prescriptions and far fewer high-dose prescriptions. Opioid doses are measured in “morphine milligram equivalents.” Prescriptions for dosages of 90 morphine milligram equivalents per day or more, which carry the highest addiction risk, declined by 16 percent last year, the report said. The federal government and about half the states have enacted restrictions, such as limiting the dose or duration of opioids that can be prescribed.