January 31, 2016

Prescription Overdose Study Sparks Outrage Among Lawmakers | Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON – A study showing how patients who survive overdoses on prescription medications only to be prescribed even more pills has sparked both outrage and calls for reforming the way physicians prescribe pain medications.

A recent study published in the Annuals of Internal Medicine found that more than 90 percent of the 3,000 chronic pain patients included in the study who had survived an opioid related overdose between 2000 and 2012 kept receiving opioid medicines from their doctors. The results of the study, conducted at Boston Medical Center, were alarming when America's prescription drug epidemic and the growing number of overdose deaths are considered, leaders in the nation's capitol said Friday.

“I am outraged that after these patients survived an opioid-related overdose, there was so little consideration of the risks of addiction and death that these patients were still being prescribed opioid medications,” U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. said. “While this may be appropriate for certain patients, this study highlights major flaws in our healthcare system that allow those patients who are either addicted or at risk of addiction to continue to receive these dangerous opioid medications. Our doctors need guidance and education on safe and responsible prescribing methods to ensure that patients who are at a high risk of overdose receive the treatment that they need.”

Manchin said he believes the study highlights the need for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opioid prescribing guidelines, which will provide guidance to physicians for treating chronic pain patients and urging greater consideration of the risks of addiction and overdose death.

The study involved 2,848 commercially insured patients between 18 and 64 years old who had an opioid overdose, which wasn't fatal, during long-term pain medication therapy for pain that wasn't related to cancer between May 2000 and December 2012, according to the medical center’s results. During the study, researchers learned that opioid pain medication was given to 91 percent of the patients after an overdose, according to the published results. Almost all the patients continued to receive prescriptions.

Seven percent of the patients, about 212 people, had another opioid overdose, researchers said. Stopping the access to the medication was connected to a lower risk for repeated overdoses.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. said Friday in a press release that he joined Manchin and four other of his Senate colleagues in urging the CDC to release delayed opioid prescription guidelines.

“The United States is in the midst of the worst prescription opioid epidemic in our history, which has claimed the lives of nearly 19,000s in 2014 alone,” Kaine stated. “One critical step we must take to address this national, public health crisis is to ensure the responsible prescribing of opioids.”

In West Virginia, there are prescription guidelines to help keep patients from going to different doctors for pain medicine prescriptions, according to Erica Bartling of Community Connections, Inc. in Mercer County. The state Board of Pharmacy has been working to fight the problem, she said. The board's system helps alert physicians when a person is going “from doctor to doctor” to find the substances feeding their addictions.

Unfortunately, having a nearly fatal overdose often isn't a wake-up call for people fighting addiction, Bartling said. In many cases, doctors not know their patients have had an overdose. Local rescue squads have been given kits containing information for overdose victims and their families to encourage them to address addiction.

By:  Greg Jordan