Missouri Doctors Urge New Limits on Prescribing Opioids in Hospitals

By on December 5, 2018

From St. Louis Public Radio:  A coalition of six medical organizations has recommended that hospital doctors take more caution when prescribing opioids for patients with pain.

To cut down on unnecessary prescriptions of addictive painkillers, the Missouri College of Emergency Physicians, the Missouri Hospital Association and other groups want hospital doctors to limit prescriptions, in some cases to a week’s supply.

The guidelines, which update a 2015 list that applied only to emergency departments, now include all hospital personnel who prescribe medicine.

“I think three years ago physicians understood at that time we played a role in all this,” said Evan Schwarz, president of the state’s college of emergency physicians, referring to the unprecedented number of people addicted to and dying from opioids. “It’s our responsibility to limit exposure when we can.”

Public health experts have pointed to physicians’ liberal prescribing of opioids such as OxyContin as one of the drivers of the opioid epidemic, which killed 760 people in the St. Louis region last year. Doctors have been trying to course-correct by prescribing fewer pills at a time and prescribing non-opioid painkillers such as topical creams and heavy-duty ibuprofen.

The new guidelines made slight changes to the original list from three years ago. In addtion to the week-long limit, the revised guidelines recommend doctors provide the opioid-reversal drug naloxone to patients they consider at risk for an overdose.

Other guidelines include warnings against using long-acting forms of opioids and endorsing non-narcotic treatment of chronic dental problems such as toothaches.

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