Fewer painkillers prescribed; overdose deaths still rising in Virginia

FILE - This Feb. 19, 2013 file photo shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. A report released Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill finds that companies selling some of the most lucrative prescription painkillers funneled millions of dollars to advocacy groups that in turn promoted the medications’ use. Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, contributed the most money to the groups, funneling $4.7 million to organizations and physicians from 2012 through last year, according to the report. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — Statistics compiled by the state show Virginia physicians prescribed fewer powerful painkillers last year than in 2016.

The Roanoke Times reports the Prescription Monitoring Program, which tracks prescriptions for narcotics filled in Virginia, shows pain reliever doses dropped by 45 percent during 2017.

The drop came after the Virginia Board of Medicine last March issued emergency regulations to control the amount, dosage and length of time that physicians could prescribe opioids.

Meanwhile, the Virginia Department of Health projects the number of people who will die from an opioid overdose will be 10 percent higher from July 2017 to June of this year than the previous fiscal year.

Dr. Hughes Melton is chief deputy commissioner of the department. He says Virginia won’t see fewer opioid-related deaths this year, but could next year.