The report, which collected data from 2014-2016, puts Israel in 11th place (out of 37 OECD states) in the overall use of narcotic painkillers. This statistic represents a 13% increase from 2013 - the last time OECD conducted a research on this matter - when Israel was ranked 24th.
According to the report, some 87,000 people in Israel take addictive painkillers on a daily basis, indicating an above average consumption levels for an OECD state.
Meanwhile, in the United States, France and Belgium the consumption of such drugs has decreased over the same time period.
"Pharmacists say they definitely feel the sharp increase in the demand for painkillers," said David Papo, chairman of the Pharmaceutical Association of Israel. "We’ve become aware of the issue around two years ago, around the time when the worrisome date on addictive painkillers in the US was revealed.”
The OECD report also reveals that the number of painkiller-related deaths has increased. In the US at least 74 deaths per million people due to painkiller-overdose were recorded in 2011, while in 2016 that number spiked to 131. Since 1999 to 2017 at least 400,000 people died from addictive painkillers in the United States.
“This is a large-scale epidemic, the magnitudes of which are not fully understood by the medical authorities in Israel,” said Papo. “The Ministry of Health has set up a special committee to examine this issue.”
Papo said the problem stems partly from the easiness with which the doctors’ prescribe the pain medication at a patient’s request. "It's an elephant in a room that nobody talks about, but doctors prescribe addictive drugs too easily,” he said. “The medical bodies don’t like confronting drug companies and are reluctant to limit doctors' ability to prescribe painkillers … we need to do something before it's too late."
"The Ministry of Health must demand severe warnings be placed on the medication’s packaging and demand the patients sign a form, saying they are aware of the risk of addiction involved with taking the drug."