Prescription Opioids Targeted Connecticut’s Most Vulnerable Citizens

In 2018, Dean and Paula Palozej found their son, Spencer, on the floor of his home in Manchester.  Spencer was one day shy of his 30th birthday and he was found dead of a fentanyl overdose. Spencer, who worked as a landscaper, started taking oxycodone for pain after two surgeries in his early 20s. A friend told his father that he took a fentanyl pill thinking it was oxycodone. Palozej unloaded on the pharmaceutical industry, which is blamed by many for the explosion in prescription opioid use and abuse nationwide over the past two decades. “I’m disgusted with what they did—the greed they had,” he said.

Fentanyl Crisis Prompts Change In Treatment Strategies

Joseph Deane had been drug free for months before he overdosed in the bathroom of a restaurant in New Haven last December. He couldn’t resist when his dealer offered drugs. Unfortunately, the dope turned out to be fentanyl. Deane, just 23 years old, had been fighting addiction for years, but fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, took his life because it’s 50 to 100 times more powerful than heroin. After months without drugs, his body couldn’t handle it.

Handful Of Prescribers Responsible For Large Share Of Opioids

Ten Connecticut prescribers, including a Derby nurse who is at the center of a federal kickback probe, were responsible for more than 23 percent of the state’s Medicare spending on opioids in 2014, suggesting that the largest share of those prescriptions is concentrated among a small number of clinicians. Recently released federal Medicare data show that Heather Alfonso, formerly a nurse with the Comprehensive Pain & Headache Treatment Centers, LLC, in Derby, and four other advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) at the clinic in 2014 dispensed more than $8.4 million in opioids in the Medicare program – accounting for a full 15 percent of all such prescriptions in the state. They were among the top 10 opioid prescribers in 2014, who accounted for $13 million of the $56 million spent on the drugs, the data show. More than 4,800 Connecticut clinicians, mostly physicians, wrote Medicare prescriptions for oxycodone, fentanyl and other opioids. But the prescribing was not evenly spread out – only two-dozen prescribers wrote out more than $250,000 worth of prescriptions.

Handful Of High Prescribers Boost Medicare Spending, New Data Show

Ten Connecticut prescribers, including a Derby nurse practitioner who is under investigation by the state, were responsible for more than 22 percent of the state’s Medicare spending on potent narcotics in 2013, new federal data show. More than 4,300 Connecticut clinicians, mostly physicians, wrote Medicare prescriptions for oxycodone, morphine and other Schedule II drugs, which have a high potential for abuse and addiction, at a total cost of $40 million. But a handful of those providers accounted for the largest share of those prescriptions, an analysis of the data show. Topping the list, in both the number of prescriptions and cost, was Heather Alfonso, an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) at the Comprehensive Pain & Headache Treatment Centers, LLC, in Derby, who wrote out 8,523 prescriptions, at a cost of $2.7 million. Statewide, the average number of prescriptions per clinician was 104, and no other prescriber had more than 5,000 Schedule II claims. The average cost per prescriber was $9,138; the next closest individual cost was $1.8 million.