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Opioid Prescriptions Falling, CDC Says


According to new data from the CDC, opioid prescription rates fell over a five-year period from 2010 to 2015, but are still triple where they were in 1999.

Welcome to Practice Rounds, our weekly column exploring what's being covered in the larger world of healthcare.

Opioid Prescriptions Falling

A new report out this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that doctors in the U.S. are prescribing opioids to patients less often. However, the CDC reports the number of opioid prescriptions is still a lot higher than it should be. The number of opioid prescriptions per 100 people dropped from 81 in 2010 to 71 in 2015, but is still triple where it was 1999, according to NPR Health. Moreover, the length of prescriptions has actually increased from 2010 to 2015, from an average of 13 days to 18 days in 2015. As Anne Schuchat, CDC's acting director, says to NPR Health, the longer a person has access to the drugs, the greater chance they have of being addicted to them.

Provider Consolidation = Higher Prices

Health systems acquiring physician practices can have a negative impact on pricing for patients, according to a new study from the Medica Research Institute, a non-profit research organization based in Minnetonka, Minn. Researchers looked at procedure-specific physician prices over a five-year period in the case of three multispecialty practices that were acquired by two hospital-owned integrated delivery systems in the Minnesota area. What they found is that four years after the acquisitions in 2007, average physician prices in the acquired practices were 32-47 percent higher than expected in absence of the acquisitions. The researchers used commercial claims data from Medica health plans from 2006 to 2011 to draw their conclusions.

Malpractice Ruling in Wisconsin

A ruling in a Wisconsin appellate court found that a medical malpractice claims cap of $750,000 is unconstitutional, the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports.  Judge Joan Kessler of the three-judge First District Court of Appeals panel said in the ruling that a "statutory cap on non-economic damages is unconstitutional." This belief coincides with an emerging House bill in Congress that would impose a federal cap on non-economic damages of $250,000 and could be brought in most medical malpractice lawsuits. The bill passed the House and moves to the Senate. The case in dispute in Wisconsin is over a $25.3 million award given in a 57-year-old mother of four who had her limbs amputated in 2011 after a Strep A infection went undetected.

Patients' Coupon Use Increasing

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine wrote that coupon use among patients for brand-name drugs has increased significantly, Medical Economics reports. The researchers estimate that coupons increase the percentage of prescriptions filled with brand-name formulations by more than 60 percent. However, coupons don't really save money, they say. In fact, coupons increase healthcare spending in general and don't help the patients that need them the most. Since coupons are geared typically towards pricey brand-name drugs, researchers say the net effect is greater pharmaceutical spending and higher health insurance premiums.


Quote of the week:

"I've said it before and I will say it again, we NEED to demand an ANNUAL EHR HUNGER GAME to force the IT industry to really listen to the end users to make them better.  If they refuse to listen, then they should go away."

-"Jay" in the comment section of "EHRs Not Designed with Real People in Mind, Expert Opines"

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