Pandemic triggers big swings in prescription drug use

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FILE – This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of prescription oxycodone pills in New York. U.S. health officials are again warning doctors against abandoning chronic pain patients by abruptly stopping their opioid prescriptions. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services instead urged doctors Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, to share such decisions with patients. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

(AP) – As most of the nation hunkered down amid the coronavirus pandemic, visits to doctor offices and outpatient clinics plunged.

That’s helping cause major swings in prescription drug use.

Express Scripts, a top prescription benefit manager, saw big jumps in people getting three-month refills of medicines for chronic health problems. Then prescription orders started dropping, partly from all the patients who’d just stocked up.

Other people lost jobs and health insurance, or avoided medical facilities for fear of catching the virus. Dr. Glen Stettin, who oversees formulary management at Express Scripts, discussed some of the trends and causes.

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