Contra Costa Urges Healthcare Providers to Limit Prescriptions for Opioid Painkillers
Monday, March 14, 2016
Responding to a rise in the abuse and misuse of painkillers such as OxyContin and Norco in the community, Contra Costa Public Health has issued a health advisory urging local medical providers to follow safe prescribing practices.
The county Board of Supervisors also proclaimed March to be Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Month at its March 8 meeting, recognizing the local impact of a national epidemic that causes thousands of deaths each year in the U.S.
The health advisory urges healthcare providers, particularly hospitals and urgent care clinics, to limit the number and pill quantity of opioid painkillers they prescribe, avoid refilling prescriptions written by other providers, and encourage patients to use just one provider and one pharmacy for their pain medicine.
Opioids are a group of pain-relieving medicines that includes hydrocodone (Norco), oxycodone (OxyContin), morphine, codeine and others. While useful for managing pain, opioids are addictive and can be dangerous, even if used as prescribed, said Public Health Director Dan Peddycord.
The guidelines were developed by the Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association and its partners in the East Bay Safe Prescribing Coalition, including Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS).
"These guidelines are intended to help balance the need for the treatment of pain with the very real risk of drug dependency, addiction and abuse," Peddycord said. "Our community, like many others, has seen a pronounced increase in prescription drug abuse during the past decade. It is a national epidemic."
Nationally, prescription opioids result in more fatal overdoses each year than heroin and cocaine combined, and rising rates of heroin addiction and overdoses have also been fueled by individuals who first became addicted to prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
In Contra Costa, 72 of the 96 drug-related accidental deaths reported to the Contra Costa Coroner's Office in 2014 involved prescription drugs.
Local healthcare providers are combatting this trend by partnering with community organizations such as the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse and the Contra Costa Medication Education and Disposal Safety Commission to raise public awareness and advocate for change in opioid prescribing policies.
Doctors from Contra Costa Regional Medical Center & Heath Centers (CCRMC) are also working within the medical community to improve policies and practices. CCRMC adopted its own safe-prescribing guidelines two years ago, and formed a review committee to create policies to better serve patients with chronic pain.
"The medical community needs to be proactive, because we are well positioned to not only provide appropriate care, but to educate our patients about the risks associated with their medicines," said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, CCRMC's Ambulatory Care director. "We have made a lot of progress in that area."
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