Despite the efforts of many stakeholders to reduce the risk of opioid overdose, there is limited information on the prevalence of high-risk prescription opioid use in the US.
Descriptive analysis of a nationally representative 5% random sample of anonymized, longitudinal, individual-level prescription claims from IQVIA LRx between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2016 among individuals ages 18 years or older that used a retail pharmacy. High-risk opioid use was defined as ≥50 morphine milligram equivalents per day and/or having concurrent dispensing of a benzodiazepine based on overlapping days of coverage.
The prevalence of high-risk opioid use among adults in the US decreased from 12.0% in 2011 to 9.4% in 2016 (p < 0.01). Declines were most pronounced among individuals ages 18–35 years (10.9%–7.0%, 36.2% decline; p < 0.01) compared to individuals age 65 years or greater (10.5%–9.8%, 6.7% decline; p < 0.01). Declines in high-risk use prevalence were observed across 49 states, with only South Dakota experiencing an increase (+13.7% relative increase). Similar to earlier years, in 2016 50.9% of all high-risk use opioid users received all their opioid prescriptions from a single prescriber, and 71.1% used a single pharmacy to fill them.
Despite clinically significant declines in high-risk opioid use, in 2016 nearly 1 in 10 adult retail pharmacy users remained at high-risk for opioid overdose in the US. Future clinical and policy interventions should consider targeting older adults with Medicare Part-D, including those using a single pharmacy to fill their opioid prescriptions.