U.S. Attorney David Freed sent a letter last week asking more than 300 doctors to review their opioid prescription patterns as part of the office’s ongoing effort to combat the opioid epidemic.
The doctors were identified as those whose opioid prescribing patterns for Medicare Part D patients appeared significantly different from their peers nationwide, with respect to percentage of patients prescribed opioids by four or more providers, average charges per patient for prescribed opioids, percentage of patients prescribed opioids above 90 morphine equivalent doses for three months, and average number of days prescribed per patient.
“Beyond criminal and civil enforcement efforts, I am committed to help educate prescribers regarding the dangers of excessive opioid use and the consequences,” Freed said in a news release. “I strongly urge prescribers to utilize all resources available, including the Pennsylvania Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, to ensure that they are doing all they can to reduce serious prescription opioid abuse, while maintaining patient access to appropriate pain medication.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that a recent DEA report found that in 2017, more than 5,450 people died in Pennsylvania from drug overdoses. Between 2015 and 2017, drug overdose deaths increased 65 percent in the state.
Of the 2017 number, 1,093 Pennsylvanians died due to a prescription opioid overdose, and 2,065 people died from heroin overdoses, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The CDC said three out of four heroin users abused prescription opioids before turning to heroin.