Nevada program aims to define extent of opioid use crisis

A new state database will help better define the extent of the opioid crisis in Nevada and is needed because existing data provides conflicting information on opioid-related deaths, hospitalizations and prescription rates, officials said.

The database is expected to help authorities fight the health crises by consolidating opioid-related information from doctors, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Its creation is part of a new state law going into effect Jan. 1 that also allows for disciplinary action against doctors who inappropriately prescribe the drugs.

Currently, data about opioid-related hospitalizations is gathered based on how emergency physicians code the visits.

“We don’t have a nice, clean box that says, ‘This is an opioid-related visit,’” said Julia Peek, community services deputy administrator at the state’s Health and Human Services department.

Doctors said the new program could make it more difficult for their patients to access opioid prescriptions for legitimate medical ailments, but Nevada Chief Medical Officer John DiMuro promised them the program won’t limit providers.

At an Opioid State Action Accountability Meeting on Monday, state agencies agreed that access to reliable data is a hindrance to fighting opioid problems.

Presenters at the meeting said incomplete data can hamper researchers’ analyses and make devising solutions harder.

“What we try to do is fully explain the nuances in the data,” Health and Human Services Chief Biostatistician Kyra Morgan told the taskforce. “Unfortunately, we do have limitations.”

Based on 2016 data, the statewide opioid prescription rate is 87.5 per 100 residents, compared with 66.5 nationwide. That’s up from 81 per 100 in 2015 and 78.1 in 2013.

Rates vary by county. Clark County had a prescription rate of 84.3 per 100 in 2016, but in Nye County, it was 155.6 — more than one prescription per person.


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