The monthly meeting of the Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team (GCOAT) Opioid and Other Controlled Substances Prescribing Committee was held May 4 shortly after new data from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) was released showing that a record number of Ohioans died from heroin-related overdoses in 2013. The charge of the group is to develop guidelines for the safe, ed appropriate, and effective prescribing of self-administered medications for acute pain.
The most recent data available from ODH shows that 983 people died of heroin-related overdoses in 2013, up from 697 deaths in 2012. The heroin increase also drove up the overall number of fatal drug overdoses to 2,110 deaths in 2013, compared to 1,914 the previous year.
ODH also reported that deaths related to prescription painkillers rose, to 726 in 2013 from 680 the previous year.
“Ohio is fighting drug abuse through many initiatives on several fronts at the state and local levels involving law enforcement, public health, addiction and treatment professionals, health care providers, educators, parents and many others,” said ODH Director Richard Hodges. “Many of these initiatives were launched in 2013 or later, and it will take some time for their full impact to be reflected in Ohio’s drug overdose deaths. We know that we’re doing the right things, but the data underscore the need to redouble our efforts.”
An initiative that has had an immediate impact is the expanded availability and use of naloxone, a life-saving drug that has the potential to reverse drug overdoses.
Several representatives participating in the GCOAT group used the new data to argue for acute pain guidelines that call for physicians to check the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS) for every patient who presents to the office with acute pain, even if the physician isn’t considering pharmacologic treatment (either non-opioid pharmacologic treatment or opioid pharmacologic treatment) for the patient. To many, automatic checking of OARRS for every patient with acute pain is the right thing to do whether it is realistic or not within the operation of a typical primary care practice.
Only after the mandatory OARRS conversation do discussions about starting with the lowest potency narcotic for pain, limiting the numbers of pills per prescription and safe storage and disposal of unused opioids occur. Progress has been painfully slow and repetitive as the checking OARRS every time for every acute pain patient never seems to move from center stage.
The Ohio Academy of Family Physicians continues to participate in these meetings in an attempt to bring the realities of practice and patient care into the discussion.
Read the Ohio Department of Health press release.