Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Prescription pain killer deaths in women skyrocket

In 2010, more than 6,600 women died from prescription pain killers, four times as many as those who died from cocaine and heroin combined. About 18 U.S. women die every day of a prescription painkiller overdose, more than 6,600 deaths in 2010. Prescription painkiller overdoses are an under-recognized and growing problem for women.

Although men are still more likely to die of prescription painkiller overdoses (more than 10,000 deaths in 2010), the gap between men and women is closing. Deaths from prescription painkiller overdose among women have risen more sharply than among men; since 1999 the percentage increase in deaths was more than 400% among women compared to 265% in men. This rise relates closely to increased prescribing of these drugs during the past decade. Health care providers can help improve the way painkillers are prescribed while making sure women have access to safe, effective pain treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention July Vital Signs report details the data behind this alarming rise in pain killer deaths among women and offers guidance to prescribing physicians. CDC Director Tom Frieden discuss the issue in this briefing:

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