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Some Ohio Doctors Still Overprescribing Opioids, Federal Report Says

A new report from the federal department that oversees Medicaid finds that prescribers in Ohio may still be overprescribing opioids in some cases.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general looked at opioid prescriptions for Medicaid participants in Ohio between June of 2016 and May of 2017.

  • They found that close to 5,000 Medicaid recipients received high doses of opioids in that period and more than 40,000 children under 18 received prescriptions.


  • Some 385 of those children had cancer or were receiving hospice care. Only 6,000 of the children received two or more opioid prescriptions.

  • Only a small number, 231, appeared to be "doctor shopping", looking for and finding multiple doctors so that they could obtain high amounts of opioids. One beneficiary received 59 prescriptions during the study period. 

  • However, the report found that most of the 40,000 cases involved only one prescription.
  • The conclusion was that some prescribers and pharmacies might not be following the state’s policies on prescribing opioids.

    Map showing the percentage of Medicaid recipients in each county who received opioid prescriptions between 2016 and 2017. [Department of Health and Human Services]

    Doctor Mark Hurst, director of Ohio’s Mental Health and Addiction Services office, says there are still many cases when it’s necessary to prescribe to children.

    “They have surgeries, they have accidents, they break bones, they have wisdom tooth extractions,” said Hurst. “All of these things may result in opioid exposure but we want to make sure when they get it, they get it in the lowest dose that’s consistent with good medical care and for the shortest period possible.”

    The report highlighted steps that Ohio had taken to reduce over-prescription of opioids including developing prescription guidelines, instituting a prescription drug monitoring program that pharmacies are required to check frequently, and shutting down illegal pain clinics under its "pill mill" legislation. Hurst pointed to the progress made in Ohio in the last few years to reduce opioid abuse. 

    “There are 50,000 prescribers more or less in Ohio,” said Hurst. “To say that not everyone is yet prescribing according to rule and guideline, I don’t think anybody would question that. But what I do think is the things we’ve put in place in the last several years have certainly caused a trend in the correct direction.”

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