Doctors unaware patients are abusing pain meds

A recent study released in The Clinical Journal of Pain by a colleague of mine validated my suspicions, yet still shocked me.

Lead author G. Caleb Alexander, MD, MS, associate professor in the John Hopkins Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology and co-director of the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, found that nearly half of all primary care physicians don’t really understand if /how their patients are abusing their pain medications, nor do they know how addictive the drugs they are prescribing are. (Read more about the study here.)

And worse, this lack of understanding could be why we are in such a bad place with prescription opioid abuse in the U.S. Every year, more than 35,000 people die from opioid overdoses. These are preventable deaths!

There’s two things we should take home from this study:

  1. Doctors still have significant learning to do about when and how to best prescribe and monitor opioids, and about the addictive nature of these drugs
  2. Doctors support protocols being recommended to them like provider-patient agreements, ordering random urinalyses, using PDMPs, measuring pain and function, etc.

Dr. Alexander states something I find incredibly important:

“Despite the high levels of support, there are many barriers to implementation and there may be reluctance to translate these changes into real-world practice. But for the sake of making a dent in an epidemic of injuries and deaths, we have to find ways to make changes. Too many lives are at stake to stick with the status quo.”

Turning the status quo on its head when it comes to opioid abuse is why we created OPSafe, a product we are launching in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for more about how we at RxAssurance intend to do more than just make a dent in this epidemic.

–  Rob

Robert J. Valuck, PhD, RPh, FNAP, is co-founder and chief strategy officer at RxAssurance.