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Contact: Joe Martin
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Harrisburg, PA – September 18, 2019 – According to a new research brief released today by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4), there were 833 fewer hospital admissions for opioid overdose in 2018 than in 2017—a decrease of almost 24%.

The brief, a three-year review of hospital admissions for opioid overdose, shows that the number of overdose admissions was 3,342 in 2016. In 2017, that number increased 4.7% to 3,500. In 2018 the number dropped to 2,667—23.8% lower than the 2017 figure.

“These findings support other opioid-related data we are seeing in the Commonwealth including a decrease in overdose deaths,” stated Joe Martin, PHC4’s Executive Director. “The decrease in heroin overdose admissions is particular noteworthy as 2018 marks the first time in almost a decade where we see a decrease in those numbers,” added Martin.

Approximately 42% of the opioid overdose admissions were heroin overdoses in 2018. The other 58% were associated with pain medication. There was a 12.7% increase in heroin overdose admissions between 2016 and 2017, followed by 36.4% decrease between 2017 and 2018. The number of admissions for overdose of pain medication dropped 2.2% between 2016 and 2017 and 11.2% between 2017 and 2018.

“While these decreases are encouraging, the brief also points to increases in hospitalizations for overdose of cocaine and amphetamines—something we will continue to monitor,” said Martin.

In 2018, nearly 1 in 10 patients hospitalized for heroin overdose, 9.2%, died in the hospital—down from 9.6% in 2017. For patients admitted for pain medication overdose, 5.3% (about 1 in 20) died in the hospital—up from 5.0% in 2017. In 2018, the average age of patients admitted for heroin overdose was 38. The average age of patients admitted for overdose of pain medication was 52.

Of the 9,509 hospital admissions for opioid overdose during 2016 to 2018, Medicaid was the anticipated payer for 47.1%, Medicare for 27.9% and commercial insurance for 18.8%, with 6.1% of the patients having no insurance or another type of insurance.

The brief also examines population-based rates. Statewide in 2018, there were 25.1 admissions for opioid overdose per 100,000 Pennsylvania residents (combining both heroin and pain medication overdoses). The rate of 54.4 for residents living in lower income areas was double the statewide rate. The rate was 46.2 for residents living in areas where less than 10% of the population has a bachelor’s degree. Males had a higher rate (30.6) than females (19.9). The rates for black (non-Hispanic), white (non-Hispanic), and Hispanic residents were 28.9, 25.2 and 20.0, 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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