The most recent edition of The Associated Press Stylebook – the premier guide for copy editors – has a number of updates that are important for health journalists to be aware of. Many of them are around the subject of drug and alcohol use and misuse, which many of my colleagues find themselves writing about quite a bit these days.
No fewer than four of the 2016 winners of the Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism covered the opioid epidemic from different angles. No surprise — former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy noted last year that more Americans suffer from addiction than from cancer. During his tenure, Murthy made the opioid crisis a top priority.
Murthy’s 2016 report on addiction has been compared to an influential report on smoking decades earlier, and he created a website devoted specifically to addressing the opioid crisis. But how much of it could have been prevented with a bit less complacency on the part of researchers? Continue reading
Too many physicians are prescribing opioid medications for hospitalized older adults who may not need them. A new study found that one-third of 10,000 older patients were prescribed opioid pain medications, including Percocet and OxyContin, while hospitalized for non-surgical conditions.
These patients had a longer length of stay (six days vs. four) and were more often readmitted within 30 days. They were also more likely to be restrained or have bladder catheters while hospitalized, according to the retrospective analysis. Continue reading
Lack of work, educational gaps, despair, overprescribing – there’s a host of reasons behind the nation’s opioid crisis. It may seem daunting to reporters who want to nail down the epidemic’s causes, but sometimes you just have to keep digging – literally.
West Virginia reporter Eric Eyre realized something was off when, during a trip to the state pharmacy board, he began digging through boxes filled with faxes from drug wholesalers reporting suspicious pharmacy activity. Continue reading
In two days in December, the Charleston Gazette-Mail published two blockbuster articles about the opioid crisis in West Virginia, the results of months of reporting by Eric Eyre, the paper’s statehouse reporter.
Anyone who read them would recognize that Eyre’s work was outstanding, if only for the numbers he included in each piece. Over six years, the nation’s largest drug distributors shipped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to pharmacies in the state, he reported. In that same period, 1,728 West Virginians fatally overdosed on those two painkillers, he wrote. Drug distributors shipped enough hydrocodone and oxycodone for each of the state’s 1.8 million residents to have 433 pills. Continue reading