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CMS releases opioid mapping tool

November 3, 2015
by Julia Brown, Associate Editor
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An interactive online mapping tool that shows geographic comparisons at the state, county and zip code levels of de-identified Medicare prescription drug benefit opioid claims within the United States has been released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The tool allows users to mouse over an area and see the number and percentage of opioid claims at the local level and better understand how it impacts communities.

CMS and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) hope that transparency will help inform community awareness among providers and local public health officials. Data for each geographic region includes percentage of opioid claims, state average, national average, total providers, total opioid claims, and total claims.

“The opioid epidemic impacts every state, county and municipality," said CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt in a press statement. "To address this epidemic, while ensuring that individuals with pain receive effective treatment, we need accurate, timely information about where the problems are and to what extent they exist.”

Used in the tool is data from 2013 Medicare prescription drug benefit claims prescribed by over one million providers who collectively prescribed approximately $103 billion in prescription drugs and supplies paid under the prescription drug benefit program. Of the 1.4 billion total prescription drug benefit claims per year, there were approximately 80.7 million opioid claims for 116 distinct opioid products contributing to $3.7 billion of the total prescription drug benefit prescription costs.

Work is underway within HHS on an evidence-based initiative that focuses on informing opioid prescribing practices, increasing the use of naloxone, and using medication-assisted treatment to treat opioid addiction. Through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HHS is also working to develop opioid prescribing guidelines and supporting training and tools for providers to make more informed prescribing decisions.