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Medicaid Enrollment Common Among Overdose Deaths

Nearly half who overdosed on prescription opioids in Washington state were on Medicaid

MONDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly half of patients who overdosed on prescription opioid painkillers in Washington state in the past few years were Medicaid recipients, according to a report in the Oct. 30 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Noting that the number of poisoning deaths nearly doubled in the United States between 1999 and 2006, largely because of overdoses of prescription opioid painkillers, Phyllis Coolen, R.N., of Washington State Health and Recovery Services Administration in Olympia, and colleagues analyzed deaths from prescription opioid painkillers in Washington state from 2004 to 2007. They note that Washington had a significantly higher rate of poisoning involving opioid painkillers than the national average in 2006.

The report found that 1,668 people died from prescription opioid overdoses during this period in Washington, of which 58.9 percent were male, 34.4 percent were 45 to 54 years old, and 45.4 percent were receiving Medicaid. After adjusting for age, the death rate was considerably higher in the Medicaid population (30.8 versus 4.0 per 100,000; relative risk, 5.7). Methadone was involved in 64.0 percent of deaths, according to the study.

"These findings highlight the prominence of methadone in prescription opioid-related overdose deaths and indicate that the Medicaid population is at high risk," Coolen and colleagues write. "Health authorities (e.g., state and local health departments, coroner and medical examiner offices, and substance abuse programs) in other states should examine trends in and risks for prescription opioid-related overdose death in their jurisdictions, especially among Medicaid clients."

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