Hawaii opioid prescriptions on downward trend, official says

Hawaii opioid prescriptions on downward trend, official says
(AP Photo/Patrick Sison) (Source: Patrick Sison)

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - The number of prescriptions written for opioid painkillers has declined over the last four years in Hawaii, a state health official said.

Dr. Daniel Galanis told state lawmakers last week that the average number of monthly opioid prescriptions has decreased from about 69,000 in 2015 to 54,500 last year, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

Opioid prescriptions have fallen by 21 percent, and that number will likely keep going down, said Galanis, an epidemiologist for the state Department of Health.

Galanis credited the decline in part to the Hawaii Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, the state database that can be accessed by physicians, pharmacists and other health care providers. The database has drastically reduced the number of patients who obtain prescriptions from multiple sources, he said.

"Without the use of (the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program), if someone's seeing multiple providers, a physician might not know that they're getting substance X over here and substance Y over there," Galanis said. "There's certainly room to improve going forward, but these are certainly trends in the right direction."

The abuse of opioids and related deaths haven’t reached epidemic proportions in the state, Democratic state Sen. Rosalyn Baker said at the Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health and the House Health Committee briefing.

The state recorded 59 opioid-related deadly overdoses and 384 overdoses that were not deadly between August 2017 and August 2018, Baker said. The state had 1,332 patients that emergency medical services treated with naloxone, a medication designed to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses.

“So, I think the state of Hawaii can pat itself on the back for making naloxone available to our first responders - police, fire and EMS - as well as to families of folks who may have prescriptions to opioids,” Baker said.

Hawaii has a “level trend or no trend” in terms of deadly overdoses from opioids, unlike much of the U.S., Galanis said.

“We don’t really have a good explanation so far why Hawaii’s different, but it’s certainly something to be conscious of,” Galanis said.

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