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Opioid prescribing rate drops at Buffalo VA, other medical centers

The opioid prescribing rate at the Buffalo VA Medical Center dropped from 17 percent of all prescriptions in 2010 to 10 percent in 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported.

The VA for the first time began publicly posting opioid prescribing rates at VA medical centers across the country, including the hospital here. Among the highlights:

  •  A 41-percent drop in opioid-prescribing rates across the VA between 2012 and 2017, with 99 percent of facilities decreasing their rates.
  •  San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Cleveland, Ohio, topped the list of medical centers with the lowest prescribing rates in 2017, at 3 percent.
  •  The highest rates were 20 percent in Roseburg, Ore., and 18 percent in Spokane, Wash.

"Many Veterans enrolled in the VA health-care system suffer from high rates of chronic pain and the prescribing of opioids may be necessary medically,” VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin said in a statement. “And while VA offers other pain-management options to reduce the need for opioids, it is important that we are transparent on how we prescribe opioids, so Veterans and the public can see what we are doing in our facilities and the progress we have made over time.”

The release of the data, the first of its kind for a health-care system, is part of the VA's Opioid Safety Initiative. The department announced that the prescribing rate information will be updated twice a year.

Opioid prescribing rates were calculated by dividing the number of  veterans who received any opioid prescription by the total number of veterans who received a prescription from that pharmacy within the time period examined, the VA reported.

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