Opioid epidemic: Right-sizing surgical prescribing, the potential use of litigation and prescription tracking policy
From post-surgery painkiller prescribing to the legal and policy realm, IHPI members' recent work is taking on the nation's opioid epidemic from several angles.
Two teams recently published papers showing that surgeons can cut back on their painkiller prescriptions dramatically, to match them with actual patient use and reduce the risk of misuse. One paper, by a team led by Michael Englesbe, M.D., shows that dialing back prescriptions for opioid pain medicines in gallbladder surgery patients didn't change patients' pain scores. These results formed the basis for a new surgical opioid prescribing guide. The other paper, by a team led by Sawsan As-Sanie, M.D., found that hysterectomy patients only use about half the opioids prescribed to them, opening the door to lower prescription amounts.
On the policy front, two bills approved by Michigan legislators this month were informed by the testimony of Rebecca Cunningham, M.D., and the research of Rebecca Haffajee, Ph.D., J.D., M.P.H., and others. The bills, expected to be signed by year's end, mandate use of the state's prescription drug monitoring program. Haffajee also explores the potential use of litigation against opioid medication manufacturers, similar to what was done against tobacco manufacturers.