Patients requiring prescription opiate painkillers are prescribed potentially dangerous drug combos. Opioids, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, came to nationwide attention in the mid-2000s when towns throughout the US started experiencing uncommonly high occurrences of opiate related overdoses and addiction-related crime.
While a major public health campaign has had some success in reducing the number of people who take potentially addictive narcotic painkillers, those patients who are prescribed the drugs are getting more of them for longer periods of time, according to a new study.
Nearly half the people who took the painkillers for over 30 days in the study’s first year were still using them three years later, a sign of potential abuse.
The report, released on Tuesday by the pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts, found that nearly 60 percent of patients taking the painkillers to treat long-term conditions were also being prescribed muscle relaxants or anti-anxiety drugs that could cause dangerous reactions.
The study looked at the pharmacy claims of 6.8 million Americans who filled at least one prescription for an opioid between 2009 and 2013. Opioids include commonly used drugs like codeine, morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone.