Fewer Opioids Prescribed in Louisiana Following Medicaid Expansion

December 4, 2017

Data from the Louisiana Department of Health and the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy show there are fewer opioids being prescribed since Medicaid expansion began in July 2016, the Louisiana governor’s office reported.

According to the Board of Pharmacy which administers the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, both the total number of opioid prescriptions and the total number of opioid pills have decreased from the year before Medicaid expansion to the year afterwards, as shown here:

  • The number of prescriptions decreased by 109,675, a 2.08 percent reduction.
  • The total number of pills prescribed decreased by more than 10 million doses, a 3 percent reduction.

The information is consistent with preliminary data from the Department of Health, which shows first-time opioid users being prescribed short-acting opioids in similar reductions in the State’s Medicaid program over two separate time periods:

  • Since July 2016, the first month of Medicaid expansion to August 2017, there has been a 40.1 percent decrease in the number of opioids dispensed for average claims.
  • Since Medicaid policy changes were first implemented in January 2017, the number of pills per prescription for Medicaid patients have decreased by more than 25 percent.

Health officials partly attribute these reductions to policy changes made by the Legislature and by the Medicaid program.

Opioid-related legislation passed in Louisiana’s 2017 regular session includes:

  • House Bill 192 limited first-time prescriptions of opioids for acute pain to a seven-day supply, with exceptions when medically appropriate.
  • House Bill 490 created a 13-member advisory council on opioid abuse prevention and education.
  • Senate Bill 55 strengthened the Prescription Monitoring Program.
  • Senate Bill 96 broadened the Prescription Monitoring Program to include counselors, parole officers, medical examiners and coroners.