RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A task force established to examine ways to reduce opioid abuse has released a new set of recommendations to help guide hospital emergency departments in a time when prescription drug abuse has skyrocketed.
“Our hospitals and our physicians, our clinicians across the country are on a frontline that knows no boundary,” said John Duval with the VCU Health System.
Opioids are commonly prescribed as pain medication. Common types include codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydrocodone/acetaminophen, hydromorphone, meperidine, methadone, morphine , oxycodone, oxycodone and acetaminophen, and oxycodone and naloxone.
“You don’t want them to be in pain anymore and I think that’s where it all started,” said Dr. Kirk Cumpston, Medical Director of the VCU Poison Center.
The task force was created by the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association’s (VHHA) Board of Directors in January 2016.
Over several months, representatives from VHHA-member organizations and the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians came up with 14 recommendations for setting general standards on prescribing opioids in Virginia hospitals’ emergency departments, which in 2014 had 3.6 million patient visits.
The recommendations address instances in which emergency department (ED) personnel should exercise caution when prescribing opioids for chronic pain treatment. They advise prescribers to dispense medications for the shortest time possible and encourage greater communication between ED prescribers and patients’ primary care physician. The guidelines discourage the practice of providing replacement prescriptions and advise caution when dispensing meds to patients without photo ID. They encourage providers to consult the Prescription Monitoring Database before making opioid prescriptions and discourage the prescription of long-acting and controlled release opioids. They also encourage hospitals and ED providers to use clinical judgement when it comes to prescription decisions and care coordination to help patients safely and appropriately manage pain.
“Virginia’s hospitals, health care community, law enforcement apparatus and elected leaders all recognize the importance of working to ensure that medications prescribed to patients are taken as intended, not misused,” said James B. Cole, President and CEO of Virginia Hospital Center and Chairman of VHHA’s Board of Directors. “Combating improper use of prescription medications is not a new effort by Virginia’s local hospitals and health systems. That has long been a consistent focus of health care providers. Given the current climate, VHHA’s members felt it appropriate to redouble those efforts on behalf of the patients and communities we serve, and the entire Commonwealth.”
The new recommendations come at a time that there is heightened awareness and focus on opioid use in the nation.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a set of guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain. The CDC estimates that 20 percent of patients who visit physician offices with non-cancer pain symptoms or pain-related diagnoses receive an opioid prescription.
In the Commonwealth, both state and local law officials have weighed in on the issue. During the 2016 General Assembly session, legislation intended to combat prescription drug misuse won bi-partisan approval.