Economic burden of prescription opioid misuse and abuse.J Manag Care Pharm. 2009 Sep; 15(7):556-62.JM
Prescription opioid abuse and its associated costs are a problem in the United States, with significant epidemiologic and economic consequences. The breadth and depth of these consequences are not fully understood at present.
To summarize published, English-language biomedical evidence pertaining to the epidemiology and costs of prescription opioid analgesic misuse and abuse and to describe efforts to reduce the burden of these problems.
Published English-language articles on the epidemiology and economics of abuse, misuse, or diversion of prescribed opioid analgesics in the United States were identified by searching PubMed, Web of Science, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature database (CINAHL), EconLit, and PsycInfo, using (economics OR epidemiology) AND (misuse OR abuse) AND opioid as search terms or Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) terms. Article bibliographies were also searched manually for applicable papers. The search was limited to articles published from 1995 through July 2009.
The literature search identified 2,347 titles, of which all but 41 were excluded as not pertaining specifically to the epidemiology or economics of prescription opioid abuse or misuse in the United States. In 2006, approximately 5.2 million individuals in the United States reported using prescription analgesics nonmedically in the prior month, up from 4.7 million in 2005. The total cost of prescription opioid abuse in 2001 was estimated at $8.6 billion, including workplace, health care, and criminal justice expenditures. One study of commercially insured beneficiaries in the United States found that mean per-capita annual direct health care costs from 1998 to 2002 were nearly $16,000 for abusers of prescription and nonprescription opioids compared with approximately $1,800 for nonabusers who had at least 1 prescription insurance claim.
The economic burden of prescription opioid misuse and abuse is large. While the existing evidence indicates that persons who abuse or misuse prescription opioids incur higher costs and health care resource use, differences in methods used to explore this question make estimating the actual societal burden imposed by this problem difficult. Efforts to establish and maintain a balance between access to these drugs for legitimate pain management while decreasing the risk of abuse and misuse are critically important and include such tools as patient and provider education, patient screening, and use of technology.