As the opiate crisis continues to mount across the US, every state is responding with new initiatives that are intended to help curb the growing epidemic. On Tuesday Patrick Morrisey, the Attorney General for West Virginia released a new initiative intended to push back against prescription drugs misuse and abuse. With a fifteen point best practices, one of the intended changes the draft proposes is to help drug prescribers and pharmacists across the state.
West Virginia suffered from over 650 deaths from overdose in 2015, with almost 600 of these deaths the result of an opiate overdose. Authorities’ state that many more residents are addicted to opiates, as the CDC states that as many as 1/4th of patients who receive long-term painkiller prescriptions for illnesses besides cancer will struggle with drug addiction.
Morrisey is aiming to lower the amount of opioids that are being prescribed while pushing the option of non-opioid pain management techniques. With this as the first step in his proposed plan, he intends to reduce the use of opiates in West Virginia by at least 25%. The released draft has recognized that there are multiple different ways to approach the management of pain and that there is no “one size fits all,” but also states that there are far more opioids in the state than the population needs.
This fifteen-point plan was created after receiving information from stakeholders and drug experts across the state. It calls for the West Virginia’s Controlled Substance Monitoring Program which is intended to reduce the risk of misuse of opioids while ensuring the appropriate and safe prescription of medication. It further demands that Naloxone, an overdose reversal drug, is incorporated into discussions about the treatment of opioids. Morrisey states that those that prescribe and dispense opiate medication have a crucial role in this plan. He recognizes that lessening substance abuse will require an approach from multiple sides, calling for “attacks from a supply, demand, and educational perspective.”
This plan also includes:
- The need to utilize pain management options that are not opioid-based. While opiates must sometimes be prescribed, all attempts to find alternative treatments should be used before providing the lowest possible dose for the shortest duration of time.
- An increase in the education of patients regarding usage, storing and disposing of unused opiates. Additionally, a bigger focus on the risks of other members of the household using any leftover drugs.
- The setting of expectations and the creation of plans to end treatment that includes opiates. These goals should focus on the reduction of pain as well as include objective goals.
- When a patient is not following treatment plans, physicians should taper off the prescription and then discontinue it. The patients should then be referred to a detoxification or treatment center.
This proposal intends to focus on the opiate epidemic from multiple angles without impacting patients who are receiving opiates for cancer or end-of-life. This plan has the support of the executive director for the state Board of Medicine, Robert C. Knittle, who has stated that this initiative has promise for the state. He hopes that with more information being offered to doctors and pharmacists there will be greater substantial change in West Virginia.
Morrisey has also revealed that he plans to buy incinerators to dispose of unused drugs as well as providing a new public service campaign that will help patients to question if they need opioid therapy.