Mass arrests of ‘pill-mill’ doctors, dozens of investigations and lawsuits into opioid manufacturers and the wholesalers who distribute the pills to pharmacies and President Trump’s sweeping plan to combat the opioid crisis are finally starting to make a dent in the legal opioid trade.
According to Bloomberg, the volume of prescriptions for opioids fell the most in a quarter century last year as doctors have become increasingly cautious about prescribing the drugs for fear that they might be diverted to the black market. The YoY decline for 2018 was 17%.
Since 2011, when prescriptions for opioids peaked, prescriptions have dropped 43%.
But news about falling prescribing rates might distract from the fact that this is too little, too late. Most opioid addicts have long since switched from prescription drugs to heroin. Much of the heroin supply in the US has been cut with fentanyl, which has caused overdose deaths to skyrocket. Drug-overdose deaths reached an all-time high of 70,000 in 2017. Since the opioid crisis first started taking shape in the late 1990s, the number of deaths have surpassed 700,000.
And as former FDA head Scott Gottlieb said during an appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Thursday morning, all the attention given to the opioid crisis has distracted from the burgeoning crisis of methamphetamine use in the US. In both cases, much of these street drugs have been flowing into the US from Mexico.