A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows per-capita opioid prescriptions decreased in the U.S. from 2010 to 2015. But in one-third of Iowa's counties, prescriptions increased over the same time period.
The CDC encourages doctors to reduce opioid prescribing when treating pain because these medications are associated with abuse and overdose rates. The opioid-related hospitalizations and deaths in Iowa have been on the rise.
Kevin Gabbert of Iowa’s State Opioid Treatment Authority says prescriptions are decreasing significantly in states that have seen the highest rates of abuse and overdose deaths.
"They've had more of a significant issue in those areas with prescription opioids and have made some of those changes, some of those changes that Iowa is considering now," Gabbert says. "And I think once we see some of those changes made, [Iowa's] numbers will go down as well."
Although opioid prescriptions are decreasing, the CDC says they're still too high. In 2015 the number of prescriptions written was three times higher than in 1999.
Gabbert says Iowa officials are trying to get more physicians to use the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), which can help prevent patients from getting opioids they don't need.
"We have about a 42 percent registration rate amongst physicians with the PMP," Gabbert says. "But that doesn’t mean that all 42 percent of those are actually using the PMP."
Some states require healthcare providers to use the PMP. Gabbert says Iowa officials are making changes to the system to make it more accessible for doctors and more timely.
He says the state is also trying to raise awareness among doctors and patients to reduce prescription opioid use.