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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Vital Signs: Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs and Other Interventions to Combat Prescription Opioid Abuse


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published significant data and trends related to opioid prescription pain relievers (OPR). In 2008, 20,044 deaths were attributed to prescription drug overdose of which 14,800 (73.8%) were due to OPR, an amount greater than the number of overdose deaths from heroin and cocaine combined. The majority of these deaths were unintentional. Between 1999-2008, overdose deaths from OPR increased almost four-fold. Correspondingly, sales of OPR were four times greater in 2010 than in 1999. Most significant to emergency physicians is the estimate that 39% of all opioids prescribed, administered or continued come from the emergency department (ED).  We present findings from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) with commentary on current recommendations and policies for curtailing the OPR epidemic.1  [West J Emerg Med. 2012;13(5):422-425.]

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