In the last two years, New Mexico has made strides in reducing drug-overdose deaths — from 521 in 2011 to 449 in 2013. Yet the state still ranks near the top in the nation for these types of deaths. So the fact the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is tightening up how a commonly abused prescription drug is dispensed works in the state’s favor.
And the state Department of Health is welcoming it.
Placing the same restrictions on prescriptions that contain hydrocodone — drugs including Vicodin, Lorcet, Norco and Tussionex — as those on similar opioids makes sense. Those restrictions include a requirement for a new, handwritten prescription each time (no call-in refills).
That’s important in a state where hydrocodone products accounted for 41 percent of all opioid prescriptions filled in 2013, according to state Department of Health data. And where 48 overdose deaths that year were attributed to the drug.
New Mexico has made important reforms on its own — in 2012 it created a Web-based system that gives providers instant information about a patient’s use of prescription opioids (and cuts the chances of an abuser getting multiple prescriptions) and required doctors with that prescribing authority to register with the prescription monitoring program.
State epidemiologist Dr. Michael Landen said earlier this year that those reforms “have led to improved prescribing of controlled substances - specifically, opioids.” But with a drug-overdose death rate that is still almost double the national average - 21.8 per 100,000 in 2013 in New Mexico compared to 13.2 per 100,000 in 2011, the most recent year available for nationwide data — it’s clear more work is needed.
— Albuquerque Journal