Pharmacy | December 21, 2017

Life Expectancy Decline in 2016 Attributed to Opioid Deaths

CDC reports that drug overdoses increased in 2016 over the previous year in every age group.

By Brian Allen, VP of Government Affairs

On December 21, 2017, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their 2016 mortality report for the United States.  The report indicates that life expectancy for Americans dropped to 78.6 years, marking a 0.1 year decline from 2015.  This is the second year in a row that life expectancy in the US has declined, the first 2-year decline since the early 1960’s.  The age groups showing the highest increase in their death rates from 2015 were 15–24 year olds at +7.7%, 25–34 year olds at +10.5% and 35–44 years olds at +6.7%.

The CDC also released a 2016 Drug Overdose Deaths data brief. That report noted that death rates from synthetic opioids (such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs and tramadol) doubled from 3.1 per 100,000 in 2015 to 6.2 per 100,000 in 2016. The rate of deaths from other opioids increased 12.8% over 2015. 

All drug overdose death rates increased for all age groups. From 2015 to 2016, the overdose death rates for any drug increased by: 

  • 28% for ages 15–24
  • 29% for ages 25–34
  • 24% for ages 35–44
  • 15% for ages 45–54
  • 17% for ages 55–64
  • 7% for those 65 and older

These sharp increases in overdose deaths were a driving factor in the decline in mortality in 2016.

Great strides have been made over the last few years in enacting controls on opioids, such as prescribing limits, prescription drug monitoring programs and drug formularies. Spending on opioids dropped 16.7% last year. The workers’ compensation system has taken an active approach to stemming the abuse.

Yet it is clear that more needs to be done. We need more education directed at physicians who prescribe opioids along with broader education to the public about the dangers of opioids and their rights as patients to say no to opioid treatment. More research needs to be done to find better and safer alternatives to opioids for treating pain, and our health care system needs to remove financial incentives for prescribing opioids by removing pain treatment as a quality control measure tied to performance bonuses.

The emotional, financial and human toll of opioid abuse remains tragically high.  At Mitchell, we are actively engaged in multiple states to enact reforms designed to reduce the use of opioids in the workers’ compensation system. Although the CDC stats are grim, our willingness to fight this battle gives us hope and Mitchell supports continued efforts toward a better future.

The CDC 2016 Mortality Brief can be found here.

The CDC Drug Overdose Deaths brief can be found here.


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