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Proposed guidelines to curb prescription drug abuse

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In early October, Gov. John Kasich and the Cabinet Opiate Action Team unveiled new prescription medication guidelines that ask doctors to re-evaluate the levels and frequency of opioids given to patients.

These guidelines are a response to the growing abuse rate of prescription drugs which, according to the CDC, is the “fastest growing drug problem in the U.S.” and is driven by an increased use of opioid analgesics such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin.

Source: National Vital Statistics System

Higher doses of prescription pain medications put patients at a greater risk of overdose, according to Tessie Pollock, Public Information Officer at the Ohio Department of Health.

The guidelines ask doctors to closely monitor the use of pain medications.

“The new guidelines recommend that 80 milligrams Morphine Equivalent Daily Dose (MED) should trigger the prescriber to ‘press pause’ and re-evaluate the effectiveness and safety of the patient’s pain management plan,” Pollock said in an email. “The guidelines are intended to supplement, and not replace, the prescriber’s clinical judgment.”

Another aspect of the guidelines requires pharmacists and encourages doctors to enter prescriptions into the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS). So far, 44 organizations, including the State Medical Board of Ohio, Ohio Board of Nursing, Ohio Dental Board and Board of Pharmacy support and promote these guidelines, and a website developed by the state helps educate prescribers on what the guidelines are and how to incorporate them into their personal practices.

Although the guidelines recommend doctors re-evaluate the high doses of opioids given to patients, Pollock said people experiencing high pain levels will still be able to access necessary medication.

“There has been a strong focus on ensuring that patients will not be abandoned and that those Ohioans living with chronic pain will still have access to effective treatment,” Pollock said.

The new suggestions also advise prescribers to use multiple treatments to relieve pain and are only meant to secure a healthier life for the patient.

“These guidelines are in place to encourage providers to not just turn to high doses of prescription opioids as the first and only treatment for chronic pain management. The guidelines encourage clinicians to put multi-modal plans of care in place,” Pollock said. “They should be assessing whether the plan is helping their patient have a better quality of life and if the original treatment plan is still effective.”

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