Maine Leads Nation In Decline Of Prescription Opioid Sales, Report Finds

Jun 19, 2018

Sales of prescription opioids in Maine fell nearly 25 percent from 2016 to 2017, the steepest drop of any U.S. state amid a nationwide decline, according to a new report.

On average, the country saw an 11 percent drop in the volume of pills prescribed, according to research by the Washington-based firm Avalere Health. Every state except Idaho saw its numbers go down, the research found.

In 2016, Maine distributed nearly 40,000 grams of prescription opioids per 100,000 people, researchers found. In 2017, the number sank to slightly over 30,000 grams.

Maine lead the pack because it was one of several states to pass a bill in 2016 aimed at curbing the amount of opioids that doctors can prescribe to patients, the report stated. States that passed more aggressive laws saw greater declines. The Avalere research highlighted a bill Maine lawmakers passed in 2016 that took effect in early 2017. That law sharply limited patients to a dose equivalent to 100 milligrams of morphine per day, and capped prescriptions at seven days for acute pain and 30 days for chronic pain.

“Limiting the supply of opioids, such as through fill limits, is gaining traction as part of a broader set of strategies being tested by states as they continue to confront the opioid crisis,” said Kelly Brantley, vice president of Avalere.

The research finding comes two weeks after the Maine attorney general’s office released a report stating that fatal overdoses in Maine during the first quarter of 2018 barely halted their pace, killing an average of one person a day. The June 1 report showed that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid often substituted for heroin, killed the majority of the 86 people who died.

Overdose deaths from pharmaceutical opioids fell, however. They made up only 20 percent of first-quarter fatalities, down from 30 percent of the 418 people who died in 2017.

Avalere researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which tracks the distribution of controlled substances from manufacturers to their retail point of sale or dispensing level.

This story appears through a media sharing agreement with Bangor Daily News.