WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs began posting publicly for the first time Thursday the opiate prescribing rates at VA medical centers across the country.
They range from a low of 3 % percent of prescriptions issued at VA hospitals in Cleveland and San Juan, Puerto Rico, to a high of 20% at the VA in Roseburg, Ore.
“Many Veterans enrolled in the VA health-care system suffer from high rates of chronic pain and the prescribing of opioids may be necessary medically,” VA Secretary David Shulkin said in a statement.
“And while VA offers other pain-management options to reduce the need for opioids, it is important that we are transparent on how we prescribe opioids, so veterans and the public can see what we are doing in our facilities and the progress we have made over time.”
The data show that nearly every VA decreased its opioid prescription rates since 2012. The VA said that agency-wide, the overall rate has dropped 41% percent.
For individual facilities, the most dramatic reductions are in El Paso, Texas, and Fayetteville, N.C., where rates decreased by more than 60%.
The VA launched an initiative in 2012 to cut back on opiate prescriptions to veterans.
Research has shown they can be highly addictive and cause more harm than good when taken on a long-term basis, such as for chronic pain. The VA inspector general found in 2012 that roughly a third of veteran patients receiving opioids were chronic users.
The agency has tried to rely more instead on other treatments, including non-pharmaceutical alternatives like yoga, physical therapy and meditation.