Authorities are getting a snapshot of the pervasiveness of opioid-related prescriptions issued in St. Louis County, based on initial reports from the prescription drug monitoring [PDMP] program now serving St. Louis and St. Charles counties, the city of St. Louis and at least 14 other state counties.
A report covering the first three months of the county’s PDMP was released on Nov. 6.
Authorities view a PDMP as critical in helping to deal with what they are calling a “heroin epidemic” in Missouri. The catalyst for that epidemic are drugs, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, that are prescribed to treat pain but can lead to addiction and heroin use. Heroin often is more potent and cheaper than prescription opioids.
Among the findings were:
• Those aged 65 or older receive the highest rates of controlled substances.
• Opioids are the most frequently prescribed drug type and represent approximately 40 percent of controlled substance prescriptions.
• The St. Louis County opioid dispensation rate is 632 opioid prescriptions per 1,000 people, which is significantly lower than the highest dispensation rate of 943 per 1,000 people in Lincoln County and the second highest dispensation rate of 711 per 1,000 people in St. Charles county.
• Hydrocodone, oxycodone, and tramadol are the three most frequently prescribed opioids and comprise 85 percent of opioid prescriptions. Over 90 percent of opioid prescriptions are low dose [<50 morphine milligram equivalents].
“This report includes the first tangible numbers from our PDMP,” County Executive Steve Stenger said. “With our program now covering 52 jurisdictions and 74 percent of the population, our PDMP will continue to be an important component in our fight against the deadly opioid epidemic.”
Stenger acknowledged County Council Chair Sam Page’s role in the legislation.
“I want to again thank Sam for his contribution to and support of this initiative,” Stenger said.
St. Louis County is using a $400,000 federal grant to cover all PDMP costs for participating counties. The grant also will support the hiring of an additional PDMP staff member, and provide funds for engagement, education and reporting.