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Opioid prescriptions in CA dropped 17 percent since 2013



April 24, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Drug Prescribing/Dispensing Public Health 

The number of opioid prescriptions written by California physicians dropped 17 percent over the past three years (2013-2016), according to new data from Quintiles IMS. In fact, per capita, California is now tied with Hawaii for the lowest number of filled opioid prescriptions in the nation. During the same time frame, physicians nationwide wrote 15 percent fewer prescriptions for these medications, reflecting the leadership role that the medical community has played in addressing prescribing practices.


The issue of opioid-related misuse, abuse and overdose continues to be a major policy issue at the federal, state and regional levels. Like the nation as a whole, California is faced with a serious health care dilemma: how to prescribe controlled substances safely and effectively to relieve pain, while simultaneously reducing the risk of prescription medication misuse, addiction and overdose. These new statistics show the positive impact of recent efforts to raise awareness about safe prescribing practices.


The California Medical Association (CMA) supports a well-balanced approach to opioid prescribing and treatment that considers the unique needs of individual patients. Opioids have a legitimate role in medical practice and can be effective when prescribed and used responsibly. Physicians who prescribe opioids and other controlled substances should have access to up-to-date information on a wide range of issues, including how to provide treatment that meets the community standard of care and manage the risks that can come with prescribing opioids.


CMA urges physicians to review the Medical Board of California's “Guidelines for Prescribing Controlled Substances for Pain,” which are intended to specifically address the use of opioids in the long-term treatment of chronic pain. The medical board guidelines also include references to special patient populations for other types of pain and across other treatment scenarios, as well as an extensive discussion about the nature and treatment of pain.


For more information, visit CMA's  safe-prescribing resource page. There you will find:



  • Resources on prescribing controlled substances safely and effectively to relieve pain, while simultaneously reducing the risk of prescription medication misuse, addiction and overdose.

  • CMA’s white papers on prescribing opioids

  • Links to relevant documents in CMA’s health law library

  • Continuing medical education courses and webinars

  • Current information on the state's prescription drug monitoring database

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