New Opioid Prescribing Guidelines Unveiled for Prescribers

December 01, 2017 07:19 PM

State leaders rolled out new guidelines on Friday for doctors and dentists to follow when prescribing painkillers.

It's not about treating pain, it's about getting to the root of the real problem.


That's the message from the opioid prescribing improvement program the state rolled out Friday.

"Instead of approaching that with the same sort of factory-like efficiency of 'Here's this pill, here's that procedure,' we need to approach the entire context of a patient's life to treat their pain effectively," chair of the Opioid Prescribing Improvement Program Dr. Chris Johnson said.

RELATED: Minnesota County Attorneys Sue Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors

Johnson says that includes possible mental health referrals, or addressing social services issues as alternatives to prescribing an addictive drug. He has seen opioid use and abuse on all parts of the spectrum in his years working as an ER physician.

"The nature of pain has been probably a bit too misunderstood," he said. "We have too long focused on pain as some disturbance of the normal anatomy."

In 2016, according to the Department of Human Services, physicians wrote 47 opioid prescriptions for every 100 Minnesotans.
Starting next year, prescribers who aren't following the new guidelines will start seeing reports on their prescription history.  That's something Johnson says he's never seen in his entire career.

RELATED: Trump Declares Opioids a Public Health Emergency

"Our goal is not to punish doctors or those who rely on opioids to treat chronic pain," Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said.

Instead, she says it's about finding alternative solutions and using these drugs as minimally as possible as addiction can start in the first 45 days of use.

"Too often our providers have felt alone. How do I manage these complicated patients? This is to give them support," Johnson said.

Lawmakers who have lost loved ones to overdose are also efforting legislation that would require insurance to cover alternative chronic pain treatments, like therapy.

In 2018, DHS will start enforcing these guidelines starting with disenrolling those who are overprescribing from the ability to serve Medicaid patients.



Katherine Johnson

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