Medical Technology

Opioid Prescribing Mapped: Alabama Highest, New York Lowest

Medicare beneficiaries in Alabama were more likely to get a prescription for an opioid than in any other state in 2019, based on newly released data.


That year, opioids represented 6.48% of all drug claims for part D enrollees in the state, just ahead of Utah at 6.41%. Idaho, at 6.07%, was the only other state with an opioid prescribing rate over 6%, while Oklahoma came in at an even 6.0%, according to the latest update of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ dataset.

The lowest rate in 2019 belonged to New York, where 2.51% of drug claims, including original prescriptions and refills, involved an opioid. Rhode Island was next at 2.87%, followed by New Jersey (3.23%), Massachusetts (3.26%), and North Dakota (3.39%),

Altogether, Medicare part D processed 1.5 billion drug claims in 2019, of which 66.1 million, or 4.41%, involved opioids. Both of the opioid numbers were down from 2018, when opioids represented 4.68% (70.2 million) of the 1.5 billion total claims, and from 2014, when opioids were involved in 5.73% (81,026,831) of the 1.41 billion drug claims, the CMS data show. That works out to 5.77% fewer opioids in 2019, compared with 2014, despite the increase in total volume.

Among the states, Delaware had the largest 5-year decrease, 2.38 percentage points, as its opioid prescribing rate dropped from 6.61% to 4.23% from 2014 to 2019, with Hawaii showing the smallest decline as it slipped 0.41 percentage points from 3.9% to 3.49%, according to the CMS.

In 2019, part D beneficiaries in Vermont were the most likely to receive a long-acting opioid, which accounted for 20.14% of all opioid prescriptions in the state, while Kentucky had the lowest share of prescriptions written for long-acting forms at 6.41%. The national average was 11.02%, dropping from 11.79% in 2018 and 12.75% in 2014, the CMS reported.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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