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Amid an ongoing opioid crisis in the U.S., a new federal government report finds that efforts to revise prescribing practices and provide treatments for people who have abused opioids continue to make progress, but also warned serious concerns remain and Covid-19 may complicate the picture.

In 2019, about one in four Medicare Part D beneficiaries received at least one prescription opioid. Specifically, 26% of beneficiaries, or 12.6 million of the 48.3 million people enrolled in the program, received opioids. This was a drop from the previous year, when 29% of beneficiaries received the addictive painkillers through Part D and, significantly, the fourth-consecutive year of decline.


At the same time, the number of beneficiaries who received medication-assisted treatment — medicines to combat opioid use disorder — steadily increased and reached 209,000 in 2019, a 20% increase from the previous year. In addition, the number of Part D beneficiaries receiving prescriptions for naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, rose 70% last year.

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