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Contact: Joe Martin
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Harrisburg, PA – June 28, 2017 – Pennsylvania hospital admissions for heroin overdoses are up 66% in the past two years and have nearly doubled since 2013 according to figures released today by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4). And while hospital admissions for pain medication have decreased slightly, the number of admissions is much higher than previously reported due to updated hospital coding procedures.

“These new findings continue to stress the devastating impact of drugs on Pennsylvania families, communities and taxpayers, regardless of age, race, gender, income level or where one lives,” said Joe Martin, PHC4’s executive director. “And combined, overdose hospitalizations for heroin and pain medications cost public and private insurance programs $27 million in 2016 alone.”

There were 1,524 hospital admissions for heroin overdose in 2016—up 66% since 2014 when there were 919 of these hospitalizations. The number of hospital admissions for heroin overdose averaged 385 per year between 2003 and 2010, which marked the beginning of a steady trend upward, and nearly doubled between 2013 and 2016.

The brief also examined hospitalizations for overdose of pain medication, noting that the number of these admissions is higher than previously believed. Data based on new hospital coding requirements, effective October 1, 2015, indicates the average number of hospital admissions for overdose of pain medication is 443 per quarter. Prior to the coding transition, the average number was 232.

In 2016, about 3% of those hospitalized for heroin overdose had at least one additional admission for heroin overdose that same year. That rate was also 3% for those hospitalized for overdose of pain medication.

The average age of patients admitted for heroin overdose was 33. The average age of patients admitted for overdose of pain medication was 54. While not included in the analysis for the brief, there were 28 admissions for pain medication overdose for patients less than 15 years old.

Statewide, there were 14.4 admissions for heroin overdose per 100,000 Pennsylvania residents. Lower income residents had a higher rate at 21.8. Males had a higher rate (20.8) than females (8.3). The rates for white (non-Hispanic), Hispanic, and black (non-Hispanic) residents were 14.6, 13.3 and 12.2, respectively.

For overdose of pain medication, the statewide rate was 16.8 admissions per 100,000 Pennsylvania residents. Lower income residents had a higher rate at 22.8. Females had a slightly higher rate (17.9) than males (15.5). The rates for black (non-Hispanic), white (non-Hispanic), and Hispanic residents were 19.8, 17.4 and 7.5, respectively.

County-level population-based rates are also included in the brief.

The brief is available on PHC4’s website at You can also link to it through social media on Facebook and Twitter.

PHC4 is an independent state agency charged with collecting, analyzing and reporting information that can be used to improve the quality and restrain the cost of health care in Pennsylvania.

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Phone: (717) 232-6787
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