One in 37 hospitalizations in Pennsylvania in 2017 were related to opioids, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council.

According to the report, the number of opioid-related hospital admissions more than doubled from 14,711 in 2008 to 29,958 in 2015, figures that are likely underestimated based on new hospital coding requirements that became effective late in 2015.

There were 36,522 opioid-related hospitalizations in 2016 and 36,712 in 2017. The analysis includes Pennsylvania residents age 15 and older.

Of the 36,712 hospitalizations, the state report showed 522 were in Luzerne County and 453 were in Lackawanna County.

“These findings show a bigger picture of what we are facing with the opioid crisis and suggest how important it is to get immediate help to those addicted to opioids and to also identify lasting solutions to battle this problem,” said Joe Martin, executive director of the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council.

The rate of opioid-related hospitalizations was 195.9 per 100,000 residents in Luzerne County and 258.2 per 100,000 residents in Lackawanna County. Both were lower than the statewide rate of 345.9 per 100,000.

 

The highest rate was in Carbon County with 716 opioid-related hospitalizations per 100,000 residents.

The report also showed in 2017, overdose was the primary reason for admission in 9.5 percent of the opioid-related hospitalizations statewide. Opioid use disorder was the primary reason for 7.5 percent of the admissions.

In these instances, patients did not overdose but, rather, had withdrawal and/or other symptoms. The remaining 83 percent of patients were in the hospital for another condition but also had opioid use disorder as a co-occurring condition. The top reasons these patients were hospitalized include mental health disorders, substance and alcohol related disorders, and septicemia and skin infection, conditions often affecting injection drug users.

Residents in age groups 15 to 34 and 35 to 54 comprised 35.2 percent of all hospitalizations and they represented 72 percent of the opioid-related admissions. Residents age 55 and older accounted for 64.8 percent of all hospitalizations and 28 percent of opioid-related admissions.

In 2017, Medicaid was the anticipated payer for 44.3 percent of the opioid-related hospitalizations — the largest percentage among the payer groups.

As a comparison, Medicaid comprised 16.9 percent of all hospitalizations that year. Medicare was the anticipated payer for 27.5 percent of the opioid-related hospitalizations, compared to 52 percent of all hospitalizations. Commercial payers made up 23.5 percent of the opioid-related hospitalizations and 28.3 percent of all hospitalizations.

Among the income groups studied, residents living in lower income areas (where the average household income is less than $30,000 a year) had the highest rate of opioid-related hospitalizations at 788.6 per 100,000 residents.

By age group, residents age 35-54 had the highest rate at 430.9 per 100,000 residents, 24.6 percent higher than the statewide rate.

The report also looked at rate differences by race/ethnicity, female/male, and rural/urban residency. The rate for black residents was 419.9 per 100,000, 21.4 percent higher than the statewide rate. Males had a higher rate than females, 369.6 and 323.6 per 100,000. At a rate of 361.1 per 100,000, residents living in urban counties had a higher rate than residents living in rural counties, 304.9 per 100,000.

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Source: The Associated Press