State regulations that placed limits on opioid prescriptions have led to a sharp drop in both the number of Medicaid patients receiving painkillers and the length of time for which they take the drugs. Optima Health reported this week that 2.5 million fewer caplets and tablets were prescribed to its Medicaid members in 2018 than the previous year, a nearly 50 percent reduction. The insurer did not have data for members in its other health insurance plans.

Optima is one of six insurers participating in Virginia’s Medicaid program that are collaborating to require pre-authorization for opioid prescriptions and to review whether other pain-relief measures that do not cause addictions should be tried.

The Department of Medical Assistance Services, which administers Medicaid, did not have numbers for all of the insurers. But Virginia Commonwealth University has been watching Medicaid opioid prescribing patterns for more than a year to track the effect that the agency’s Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services program is having in reaching people with addictions to opioids and other substances.