The Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center has the highest rate of opioid prescriptions of any VA in the country, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
According to the report, 20 percent of all prescriptions veterans received at the VA pharmacy were opioids.
The report indicated, however, that the Roseburg VA has reduced its opioid prescription rate nearly 30 percent over the past five years. Ninety-nine percent of all VA facilities have reduced their opioid prescribing rates over the same period.
In a statement, the VA indicated its providers have focused on safe opioid use and on steadily decreasing prescription rates. It said the VA has been using physical therapy, yoga, cognitive-behavioral therapy, chiropractic care and battlefield acupuncture. Battlefield acupuncture is one of the larger programs the VA has developed and it is "having significant anecdotal benefits and satisfaction," the statement said.
Trying to solve the opioid problem in Douglas County
The data released Thursday was compiled by the VA’s Opioid Safety Initiative, which aims to “promote safe prescribing practices and to address the broader opioid epidemic in the United States,” according to the report.
In 2012, the Roseburg VA also topped the national chart, with an opioid prescription rate of 28 percent.
Other Oregon facilities had lower rates overall, and also made more substantial reductions to opioid prescription rates. The Portland VA Medical Center showed a steep 43 percent drop in opioid prescriptions, from 25 percent in 2012 to 14 percent in 2017. White City dropped 46 percent over the same period, from 18 percent in 2012 to 10 percent in 2017.
The lowest rates in the country are at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA in Ohio and the San Juan VA in Puerto Rico, which both had a 3 percent opioid prescription rate.
The report also indicates whether opioid prescription rates are high, average or low for Medicare Part D claims at non-VA facilities in each region, based on data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Prescription rates for Oregon are considered high by the CMS, but at 7.24 percent, they are considerably lower than the VA rates.
Dr. Bret Hansen from the Oregon Surgery Center in Roseburg told The News-Review in October that four out of five heroin users in Oregon begin with pain killers, and 70 percent of those start from a drug cabinet. In 2016, 110 people died in Oregon from opioids, he said.
A Roseburg VA spokesman said this morning that officials were working on a response to the report and would have a statement later today.