Updated May 31, 2018

Doctors are being more careful on opioid prescriptions

Data: American Medical Association. Get the data; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Doctors are increasingly using prescription drug monitoring programs — databases that track patients' drug history — in an effort to cut down on inappropriate opioid prescriptions. This corresponded with a 9% drop in opioid prescriptions between 2016 and 2017, according to new data from the American Medical Association.

What's next: The AMA says policymakers need to focus next on the barriers to treatment that people struggling with opioid addiction still face, including insurance coverage issues.

  • "Treatment is key ... on average, 9 out of 10 patients who want access to medication assisted treatment can't get that medication assisted treatment," said Patrice Harris of the AMA's opioid task force.

Other key stats from the AMA's report:

  • The number of opioid prescriptions decreased by 22% between 2013 and 2017.
  • Prescriptions for naloxone – which is used for opioid overdose reversal — more than doubled in 2017 and are still on the rise in 2018.
  • Over the past year, there's been a 42% increase in the number of providers certified to use buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorders.

Go deeper: The rise of newer, deadlier opioids; More people are blaming the opioid crisis on drug companies

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AP: China's hidden, growing opioid crisis

Oxycodone, an addictive narcotic pain reliever. Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A lack of treatment options, overprescription and little official understanding of the scale of painkiller abuse in China are likely contributing to the spread of opioid addiction in the country, per AP analyses.

What's happening: Drug company Mundipharma has "pushed ever larger doses" of painkillers like OxyContin in China, "even as it became clear that higher doses present higher risks," AP found in November. Mundipharma is owned by the Sackler family, which also owns Purdue Pharma, the OxyContin maker accused of helping fuel the U.S. opioid crisis.

Go deeperArrowDec 31, 2019

Major health care companies keep getting taken to court

Photo: Ronen Tivony/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The Department of Justice's lawsuit against CVS Health, alleging the falsification of old prescriptions and creation of new improper refills, wasn't the only major legal battle in health care world yesterday.

Driving the news: The Federal Trade Commission is suing to block Illumina's $1.2 billion takeover of PacBio, which competes with Illumina for DNA sequencing that helps find disease patterns.

Go deeperArrowDec 18, 2019

Health care profits dip, but stocks soar

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Health care industry earnings fell 18% in the third quarter of this year, compared with the same period in 2018, due in part to the costs associated with opioids litigation, according to the Axios tracker of almost 170 health care companies.

Yes, but: The industry still churned out a 6.1% profit margin, and health care stocks are at the highest they've been all year because Wall Street foresees a very profitable election year.

Go deeperArrowDec 17, 2019