HARRISBURG – On behalf of Gov. Tom Corbett, the Pennsylvania Departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs and Health, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Medical Society, yesterday released statewide guidelines to address the use of prescription opioids to treat chronic non-cancer pain.
Corbett directed the Departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) and Health to establish the Safe and Effective Prescribing Practices and Pain Management task force in an effort to reduce prescription drug abuse and overdoses in Pennsylvania. The group was tasked with reviewing prescribing practices and identifying guidelines for health care providers who treat chronic non-cancer pain.
“Over the past 15 years we have seen a dramatic increase in prescribing opioids for chronic pain; during this period, prescription drug abuse and overdoses have skyrocketed and led us to Pennsylvania’s current heroin epidemic,” DDAP Secretary Tennis said. “These guidelines will significantly reduce the chance that more Pennsylvanians will become addicted to prescription opioids in the future.”
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the Vital Signs report which indicated that health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.
“States are vital to reversing the prescription drug overdose epidemic and providing education and resources to reverse these trends,” Physician General Dr. Carrie DeLone said. “These new guidelines are an example of how we are working together in Pennsylvania to develop tools and resources that will help to keep individuals from starting down the path of addiction.”
The guidelines recommend that chronic pain is best treated using an interdisciplinary, multi-model approach. This may include physical therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, electronic stimulation therapy, and careful use of medications as needed.
“The growing epidemic of opioid abuse is one that concerns Pennsylvania physicians across the state,” said Bruce A. MacLeod, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. “As an emergency physician, I see the devastating impact of prescription drug abuse on a regular basis. It’s an epidemic that does not discriminate on the basis of race, age, or gender, and no community is immune.”
Another goal of the task force is to ensure that prescribers and dispensers are able to identify drug abuse and addiction problems in their patients so that they can refer them to appropriate treatment.
The task force included representation from health care professionals, associations and regulatory agencies. The guidelines have been endorsed by the Pennsylvania Medical Society, and supported by the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society, University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, and Geisinger Health System, Enterprise Pharmacy.
The task force next will be turning its attention to opioid prescribing guidelines in the context of hospital emergency departments, recently adopted by the Pennsylvania Medical Society and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
The Pennsylvania Guidelines are available online at:www.pamedsoc.org/opioidguidelines.