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Quantities of opioid analgesics dispensed from retail pharmacies approach the lowest levels in 15 years

A recent FDA analysis of commercially available data showed steep drops in dispensing of opioid analgesics in retail outpatient settings. In the first six months of 2018, the volume of opioid analgesics dispensed was 74.1 metric tons of oral morphine equivalent, down more than 16 percent from the first half of 2017, when the volume dispensed was 88.8 metric tons. Earlier declines were there, but smaller. The volumes of opioid analgesics dispensed in the first half of 2017 and 2016 were about 10.4 percent and 3.4 percent less than comparable values 12 months earlier. These trends seem to suggest that the policy efforts that we’ve taken are working as providers, payers and patients are collectively reducing some of their use of prescription opioid analgesic drugs.

Graph showing trends in dispensing of opioid analgesics in retail settings: Estimated number of units (e.g., tablets, patches, milliliters) and calculated oral morphine equivalents (in metric tons) dispensed for opioid analgesic products from U.S. retail pharmacies, 1997 through projected year 2018. Source: IQViA, Natinoal Prescription Audit, 1997-June 2018. The data displayed in this chart indicate that dispensing reached a peak in 2010 and has declined each year since then. The chart data is also summarized in the statement above.