STATCAST – Week of March 18, 2019

New Data on Strategies Used to Reduce Prescription Drug Costs and Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Fentanyl


Two new reports this week from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics focus on the topic of drugs – but from two very different angles.

On March 19, NCHS released a new analysis looking at what kind of strategies people use to reduce their prescription drug costs. These strategies were most often practiced among people who were without health insurance. The data, which come from the National Health Interview Survey, show that one-third of adults ages 18-64 without health insurance did not take their medication as prescribed. The report also found that nearly 40% of adults without health insurance asked their doctor for a lower cost medication. Another 14% turned to alternative therapies to reduce their prescription drug costs.

The second report released this week, on March 21, focuses on what is now one of the biggest public health crises in the country: overdose deaths from the illicit drug fentanyl. Researchers at NCHS used a unique analysis in which they examined the written description or “literal text” on the death certificates to learn specifically what drugs were responsible for the overdose.

The report found that the number of deaths from overdoses involving fentanyl was more than 11 times higher in 2016 than in 2011. The number of fentanyl deaths was stable in 2011 and 2012 at over 1,600 deaths, and then began to increase in 2013, rising to over 18,000 deaths in 2016. More recent provisional data from NCHS on deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids not including methadone, show the number of deaths to be approximately 30,000.

Both reports can be found on-line at: