HCN News & Notes

Mass. Medical Society Launches Effort to Counter Prescription Drug Abuse

WALTHAM — Arguing that “there is no more important public-health issue today than the opioid epidemic,” Dr. Dennis Dimitri, president of the Mass. Medical Society, announced that the organization is launching a comprehensive campaign to educate physicians and patients about safe prescribing and the storage and disposal of prescription pain medications.

“Physicians must step forward immediately to do everything we can to help bring this devastating problem under control,” Dimitri said.

Citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, Dimitri noted that more than 80{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of people who misuse prescription pain medications are using drugs prescribed to someone else. He also called attention to a recent poll by the Harvard School of Public Health that discovered that nearly four in 10 Massachusetts residents personally know someone who has abused prescription pain medications.

Dimitri said that, while he believes most physicians prescribe responsibly, the data “tells me that there are too many doses of opioid medications in circulation. By limiting this supply and ensuring that opioids are available only to patients who truly need them, we can make a big impact on the Commonwealth’s opioid crisis.”

Dimitri said the medical society’s campaign will have three components: guidelines for prescribers to help them make the right decisions for their patients, free educational resources for prescribers to help inform their judgments, and information on the critical aspects of storage and disposal of prescription drugs for patients and families.

The guidelines for prescribers are being recommended for use by all physicians, he said, and are not designed to micromanage care, but to improve patient care and lessen the risks associated with opioid prescribing. “We recognize that each patient is different, and in all cases, a prescriber’s sound clinical judgment is important. However, we also believe that several principles should govern the exercise of this clinical judgment.”

The second component of the effort focuses on education as a key element in reducing prescription drug abuse. Dimitri said the medical society will make its pain-management courses available free to all prescribers until further notice. “We intend to remove as many barriers to prescriber education as possible.”

The final element of the campaign is a collaborative effort with the Partnership for Drug Free Kids and its Medicine Abuse Project to disseminate information about safe storage and proper disposal of opioid medications — key elements in reducing the number of people who abuse drugs that are prescribed to someone else.

“There is no more important public-health issue today than the opioid epidemic,” said Dimitri. “It is devastating communities, families, men, women, rich and poor, and, most tragically, children and adolescents. It has to stop — and physicians are ready to do our part.”

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