Last year, more than 89,000 prescriptions for atorvastatin were written for local Medicaid patients.
In 2015, as awareness of the addictive properties of pain relievers and opioid drugs was barely beginning, the most prescribed drug in Erie County was hydrocodone-acetaminophen, a popular opioid pain reliever.
According to the Erie County Medicaid Inspector General’s Office, doctors have issued nearly 77,000 Medicaid prescriptions for this drug – think Vicodin, Lortab, Norco, etc.
It was the same year that 256 Erie County residents died of opioid overdoses, twice as many as the year before. More than 300 would die the following year, launching a state and national effort to curb overprescribing of these narcotics.
At that time, the Covid-19 pandemic was still years away.
With over 250,000 low-income Erie County residents receiving Medicaid benefits, Medicaid prescribing data is considered to fairly reflect the broader trends in drug prescribing.
In 2020, hydrocodone was no longer even among the 10 most prescribed Medicaid drugs, with doctors dispensing less than half the number of prescriptions than in 2016. Last year, the drug ranked 17th, in below prescriptions for vitamin D.
“This continues to be a positive sign in the fight against opioid abuse,” said Medicaid Inspector General Michael Szukala.
But the ripple effects of those early days of heavy prescriptions for opioid pain relievers are still reflected in the prescription drug data.