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Ohio leads nation in overdose deaths

Catherine Candisky & Alan Johnson • Nov 29, 2016 at 9:00 AM

In a grim statistic that surprises no one close to the problem, Ohio leads the nation in opioid overdose deaths, a new report shows.

Along with the overall category, Ohio also had the country's most deaths related to heroin: One in 9 heroin deaths across the U.S. happened in Ohio.

The Buckeye State also recorded the most deaths from synthetic opioids: About 1 in 14 U.S. deaths.

In all the categories, Ohio easily surpassed states with larger populations.

According to state-by-state statistics compiled by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2,106 opioid overdoses were reported in Ohio in 2014, which was 7.4 percent of the 28,647 deaths reported nationwide that year. California ranked second with 2,024 deaths and New York was third with 1,739.

The statistics are troubling but probably aren’t news to many law enforcement officials, treatment providers and families of addicts in Ohio who have seen the number of overdose deaths shoot up every year lately.

>> Heroin’s hold on us: Dispatch series on opioid epidemic in Ohio

Ohio’s status as the nation’s OD capital may continue. The state’s overdose deaths rocketed to 3,050 last year and are expected to burst past that number in 2016.

The Kaiser analysis, compiled from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information, showed Ohio had the highest number of deaths from synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil, with 590 deaths out of 5,544 nationally, or 7.4 percent.

Finally, Ohio also had the dubious distinction of having the most heroin deaths in 2014, 1,208 of 10,574 nationally, or 11.4 percent, the Kaiser statistics showed.

National statistics showed one area where Ohio fared slightly better than other states: overdose deaths from drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, which are typically dispensed in pill form. Ohio has made great strides in recent years in reducing the number of narcotic pain pills prescribed in the state, only to see addicts move to harder drugs such as heroin and fentanyl.

The governor’s office decline to comment on the new drug statistics.

In a related issue, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that Adapt Pharma has frozen its public interest price for naloxone nasal spray at $75 for two 4-milligram doses for Ohio through the next year, making Ohio the only state to negotiate a price freeze.

Naloxone can limit or stop the effects of an opioid overdose.

The price freeze benefits Ohio law enforcement, first responders, state and local government agencies, and community-based organizations, DeWine’s office announced. The cost is a 40 percent discount from Adapt Pharma’s wholesale acquisition cost of $125.

Ohio also receives a rebate from Amphastar Pharmaceuticals of $6 for each syringe purchased through March of 2017.

“The cost to purchase naloxone has prevented some agencies from carrying this life-saving drug, but I hope that Adapt Pharma’s new price freeze for Ohio will allow more agencies to consider keeping naloxone on hand,” DeWine said. “I continue to urge law enforcement agencies to carry this drug because it can mean the difference between life and death for those suffering from addiction."

The statistics state-by-state are available online in a sortable database at http://kaiserf.am/2gBhNht.

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©2016 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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