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Opioid dispensing plan can reduce overdose, addiction risks

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Creating an opioid prescription plan can help medical providers effectively treat chronic pain patients while reducing unnecessary narcotic prescriptions and reducing the risk of patient overdoses and addiction, according to executives from Rockford Health System in Rockford, Illinois.

The health system implemented an opioid prescription policy in May that includes several tools to help manage medications for patients who have chronic pain unrelated to cancer.

Those strategies include prescribing limited amounts of opioids to patients with acute pain, rather than providing 60- or 90-day supplies; checking Illinois' prescription drug monitoring program database to see if patients have already received recent narcotic prescriptions; and referring patients to a pain management program if they seek opioid medications more than two times in a month.

The program has helped reduce opioid dispensing for Rockford Health System, said Barbara Giardino, the health system's risk manager. The system issued 2,237 narcotic prescriptions from June 1 to Aug. 31 of this year, down 12.3% from the same period in 2014. There were 50,914 opioid pills prescribed during the recent three-month period, down 13.9% from last year.

“It's been a journey. We're not at the end of it yet, but we're finding some progress,” Ms. Giardino said during the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management's annual conference in Indianapolis.

The opioid policy does not stop doctors from prescribing opioids to chronic pain patients since some doctors were concerned about patients giving them negative reviews or retaliating against them if they failed to effectively treat their pain, Ms. Giardino said. But the system believes the program educates doctors on how to prescribe such medications responsibly, she said.

“What we wanted to do was use this to help support the physicians in their decisions to treat patients,” Ms. Giardino said.

It was important for Rockford Health System to base its opioid prescription policy on evidence-based treatment guidelines from groups such as the American Pain Society, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the National Pharmaceutical Council, said Dr. Jude Perez, an emergency room physician and chairman of credentials for Rockford Memorial Hospital in Rockford, Illinois.

Doing so gave Rockford Health System's opioid policy credibility with its physicians, which has helped with compliance, Dr. Perez said.

“If you want to get a physician's attention, say 'evidence-based practices,' ” Dr. Perez said.