South Dakota opioid prescriptions fell again

Opioid Crisis

FILE – This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of prescription oxycodone pills in New York. U.S. health officials are again warning doctors against abandoning chronic pain patients by abruptly stopping their opioid prescriptions. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services instead urged doctors Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, to share such decisions with patients. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota pharmacies filled fewer orders for opioids in 2019, according to the director of the state prescription drug monitoring program.

Melissa DeNoon presented statistics covering the past four years Friday to the South Dakota Board of Pharmacy.

The number of prescriptions dropped:

2016 — 599,667

2017 — 581,550

2018 — 511,271

2019 — 472,871

The quantity of opioids also fell:

2016 — 39,437,769

2017 — 41,318,924

2018 — 33,876,217

2019 — 29,216,723

Days of supply went down too:

2016 — 9,343,889

2017 — 8,708,079

2018 — 7,532,863

2019 — 6,879,984

The Legislature established prescription drug monitoring in 2010. Lawmakers required in 2017 that dispensers such as pharmacies must participate and report prescriptions within 24 hours.

DeNoon said there are 83 medication-dropoff receptacles in South Dakota. Of the 52 counties with at least one pharmacy, there are med-drops in 43.

“That’s really exciting,” she told board members.

Fourteen counties don’t have pharmacies.

Later Friday, the state Medicaid Pharmaceutical and Therapeutics Committee met to review prescriptions in South Dakota’s medical-assistance program.

The group began tracking opioids three years ago. The trends had been steadily going down, from 11,283 claims and 3,835 people utilizing them in the first quarter of 2018, to 7,809 claims and 2,863 users in fourth quarter 2019.

Then came the first quarter of 2020. Claims rose to 9,084 and utilizers climbed to 3,625.

Sandra Oh represents Optum Rx, the vendor that gathers some of the Medicaid data for state government. She told the committee that the uptick reflects an additional group: federal Indian Health Service users. They previously weren’t in it.

Oh said she wasn’t able to separate them this time.

State government also operates the Avoid Opioid program. The main page of its website warns, “Opioids are highly addictive narcotics commonly prescribed to treat pain. South Dakota opioid deaths have increased since 2012.”

From 2009 through 2018, opioid-related deaths in South Dakota ranged from a low of 21 in 2012 to a high of 38 in 2016.

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