Business / Health

Nearly 1 in 3 on Medicare got commonly abused opioids

This Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 photo shows pills of the painkiller hydrocodone at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. From data between 2000 and 2014, the Centers for Disease Control says rising drug and alcohol overdoses, suicides, and disease from chronic alcoholism — labeled "deaths of despair" by one expert — are cutting the lives of white Americans short by nearly a half a year on average. Experts cite several possible reasons that drug overdose deaths and suicides are occurring far more often among middle-aged whites than other groups. They say whites have had an easier time getting access to the powerful painkillers that have been the root of the current drug overdose epidemic. And whites may more quickly turn to suicide because often they don't have the kind of family and social support often seen in black and Hispanic communities, they say. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

This Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 photo shows pills of the painkiller hydrocodone at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. From data between 2000 and 2014, the Centers for Disease Control says rising drug and alcohol overdoses, suicides, and disease from chronic alcoholism — labeled “deaths of despair” by one expert — are cutting the lives of white Americans short by nearly a half a year on average. Experts cite several possible reasons that drug overdose deaths and suicides are occurring far more often among middle-aged whites than other groups. They say whites have had an easier time getting access to the powerful painkillers that have been the root of the current drug overdose epidemic. And whites may more quickly turn to suicide because often they don’t have the kind of family and social support often seen in black and Hispanic communities, they say. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

CHICAGO (AP) — A new report says nearly 12 million Medicare beneficiaries received at least one prescription for an opioid painkiller last year at a cost of $4.1 billion. Federal data show how common the addictive drugs are in many older Americans’ medicine cabinets.

With an overdose epidemic worsening, nearly one-third of Medicare beneficiaries received at least one prescription for commonly abused opioids such as OxyContin and fentanyl in 2015. Those who did received an average of five such prescriptions or refills.

The report was released Wednesday to The Associated Press by the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Medicare spokesman Aaron Albright says agency officials are reviewing the report closely.

 

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