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Opioid Epidemic Fueling Hospitalizations, Hospital Costs

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at May 4, 2016

In the article, “Opioid Epidemic Fueling Hospitalizations, Hospital Costs,” Kaiser Health News staff writer Shefali Luthra reports: “Every day, headlines detail the casualties of the nation’s surge in heroin and prescription painkiller abuse: the funerals, the broken families and the patients cycling in and out of treatment. Now, a new study sheds light on another repercussion — how this public health problem is adding to the nation’s ballooning health care costs and who’s shouldering that burden. The research comes as policymakers grapple with how to curb the increased abuse of these drugs, known as opioids. State legislators in New York, Connecticut, Alaska and Pennsylvania have tried to take action by adding new resources to boost prevention and treatment. In addition, President Barack Obama laid out strategies last month intended to improve how the health system deals with addiction.”

“Published Monday in the journal Health Affairs, the study measures how many people were hospitalized between 2002 and 2012 because they were abusing heroin or prescription painkillers, and how many of them got serious infections related to their drug use. It also tracks what hospitals charged to treat those patients and how the hospitals were paid.”

“The findings? Hospitalizations related to use and dependence on opioids have skyrocketed, from about 302,000 in 2002 to about 520,000 a decade later. During the same time period, the number of these patients who had dangerous infections, like endocarditis or septic arthritis, increased from about 3,400 to 6,535. Those tallies are likely higher now, given the continued growth in opioid abuse, said Matthew Ronan, a hospitalist at the Veterans Health Administration in Boston, an instructor at Harvard Medical School and the study’s primary author.”

“Opioid overdoses killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, the most recent year for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has public data. That was an all-time high. Experts say increased availability of drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers is driving the problem.”

“The findings add another layer to efforts to combat addiction, said Wilson Compton, deputy director of the federal National Institute on Drug Abuse. It is already a public health matter, he said, and this research makes the case for a public cost concern, too.”

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