Why OIG Did This Review. The Nation has been grappling with an opioid crisis for several years. In 2017 alone, there were 47,600 opioid-related overdose deaths in the United States. It continues to be a public health emergency. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has been tracking opioid use in Medicare during this crisis, particularly since 2016.1 OIG has identified beneficiaries at serious risk of misuse or overdose and has identified prescribers with questionable prescribing for these beneficiaries. These types of analyses are crucial to understanding and addressing the national opioid crisis. Building on past OIG work, this data brief details opioid use in Medicare Part D in 2018 and trends in drugs used to treat opioid use disorder. What OIG Found. Nearly 3 in 10 Medicare Part D beneficiaries (29 percent) received opioids in 2018, a significant decrease from the previous 2 years. At the same time, the number of beneficiaries receiving drugs for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder has steadily increased and reached 174,000 in 2018. In addition, the number of beneficiaries receiving prescriptions through Part D for naloxone--a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose--more than doubled from 2017 to 2018. Nearly 354,000 beneficiaries received high amounts of opioids in 2018, with about 49,000 of them at serious risk of opioid misuse or overdose. About 200 prescribers ordered opioids for large numbers of beneficiaries at serious risk. What OIG Concludes. Progress has been made in decreasing opioid use in Part D and increasing the use of MAT drugs and the availability of naloxone. It is imperative for the Department of Health and Human Services--including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and OIG--to continue to implement effective strategies and develop new ones to address this epidemic.
The National Library of Medicine believes this item to be in the public domain. (More information)