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CDC – Urgent Need for Improved Controlled Substance Prescribing Practices

CDC – Urgent Need for Improved Controlled Substance Prescribing Practices

A new report published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Surveillance Summary, Controlled Substance Prescribing Patterns – Prescription Behavior Surveillance System, Eight States, 2013, characterizes and describes trends in controlled substance prescribing and prescription drug misuse.

The study found that prescribing practices varied widely among states despite the fact that states are similar in the prevalence of the conditions these drugs are used to treat.  Moreover, differences in population characteristics, such as ethnicity and social status, likely explain only a fraction of the variation in prescribing practices.  The findings point to the urgent need for improved prescribing practices, particularly for opioids – which in all eight states were prescribed twice as often as stimulants or benzodiazepines.

Study Findings Underscore Need to Curb Overprescribing

  • Prescribing rates varied widely by state: twofold for opioids, fourfold for stimulants, and nearly twofold for benzodiazepines. Among the study’s other findings:
  • A small minority of prescribers are responsible for most opioid prescriptions.
  • The top 1 percent of prescribers wrote 1 in 4 opioid prescriptions in Delaware, compared with 1 in 8 in Maine.
  • People who receive opioid prescriptions often receive benzodiazepine prescriptions as well, despite the risk for adverse drug interactions.
  • The percentage of controlled substance prescriptions paid for in cash – an indicator of abuse – varied almost threefold among five states reporting this measure.


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