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Updated Medicare Part D Opioid Drug Mapping Tool Unveiled

Updated Medicare Part D Opioid Drug Mapping Tool Unveiled
Interactive tool adds extended-release opioid prescribing rates, county-level hot spots

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released an updated version of the Medicare opioid prescribing mapping tool. This tool is an interactive, web-based resource that visually presents geographic comparisons of Medicare Part D opioid prescribing rates. The tool includes the addition of extended-release opioid prescribing rates and county-level hot spots and outliers, which may identify areas that warrant attention. 

The mapping tool offers local communities greater transparency into opioid prescribing in the Medicare Part D program. Communities can use this resource to understand how this critical issue affects their area, examine regional variation, and make informed decisions about how to allocate resources. The underlying data that feeds this tool is also used by CMS to monitor and manage high risk use of opioids in the Part D program. 

“Addressing the opioid epidemic and its impact on every state, county and municipality is a priority of the Trump Administration,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “This updated mapping tool gives providers, local health officials, and others data about their community’s Medicare opioid prescription rate and information to help target resources and develop solutions for this problem plaguing our nation’s neighborhoods.” 

Prescription opioids can be prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain. However, they also can have serious risks including addiction and overdose. The majority of drug overdose deaths involve opioids, and since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving prescription opioids has quadrupled. In 2015, more than 15,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids. 

The data used in this mapping tool are from Medicare Part D prescription drugs prescribed by healthcare providers. In 2015, Medicare Part D spending on drugs was $137 billion, which reflects about 40% of U.S. retail prescription drug spending. In total, for Medicare Part D, there were approximately 80 million opioid claims for 111 distinct opioid products in 2015, accounting for $3.5 billion in spending. It is important to note that the information presented in the tool does not indicate the quality or appropriateness of opioid prescribing for an individual physician or in a given geographic region. 

The updated version of the mapping tool presents Medicare Part D opioid prescribing rates for 2015 as well as the change in opioid prescribing rates from 2013 to 2015. New for this release is additional information on extended-release opioid prescribing rates. Extended-release opioids are formulated to release the active ingredient slower, over a longer period of time, and require less frequent administration. However, because extended-release drugs contain a large amount of the opioid, they have been associated with misuse, including both addiction and overdose deaths. In addition, this release includes county-level hot spots and outliers, which may identify areas that warrant attention. 

The Medicare Part D Opioid Drug Mapping Tool can be found here: