A PatientsLikeMe researcher’s take on the opioid crisis and new prescribing regulations

Posted January 25th, 2017 by

Meet Emily (EmilyMcNaughton), a PatientsLikeMe researcher with more than ten years of experience in both the private and public sector. She’s here to weigh in on the recent Boston Globe article addressing the aftermath of the opioid crisis. New prescribing regulations have some doctors hesitant to prescribe these drugs, but that could prove more harmful to the patients who rely on them for pain control.

Check out the Boston Globe article, and see what Emily has to say below.

 

A researcher’s perspective

Prescription opioid medications have been widely discussed over the past 15 years, especially with the surge of prescriptions dispensed during the 2000s, which created an epidemic of abuse and overdose-related deaths. Because the prescription-opioid landscape seems to be constantly changing, people all across the medical, public health, regulatory and pharmaceutical sectors have been working to find solutions that will still allow patients to access their prescribed pain medications while minimizing problems with abuse, misuse, death, and product diversion (when patients either share, give or sell their prescription medications, or medications are stolen).

Many would agree that it’s been helpful to increase awareness, education and open communication between doctors and patients about these medications, but some aspects of restricting the availability of prescription opioids might cause unintended harm to patients.  As this Boston Globe article highlights, many doctors are now prescribing fewer opioids than in previous years and in some cases doctors fear that these reductions may hurt patients.

With any public health problem, solutions are not always perfect and there are pros and cons to every decision. In terms of prescription opioid medication, here are some of my thoughts on public health recommendations, regulatory changes and how they might impact patients. 

Advantages

  • There’s more awareness around how to appropriately use prescription opioids, the potential risks they pose and the proper prescribing practices, both within the medical community as well as patients and the public.
  • We’re seeing recommendations for increased patient-doctor communication about goals for prescription opioid use as well as alternative treatments, when appropriate.

Potential Unintended Consequences

  • There’s a growing pressure among doctors who fear there may be consequences for prescribing opioid medications.
  • There’s a possibility that difficult regulatory hurdles might deter a physician’s willingness, or even ability, to prescribe opioid medications in appropriate situations.
  • Blanket regulations that set maximum prescribing limits do not take into account the individual needs of each patient or doctor expertise.
  • Patients might have insufficient access to or may be unable to afford alternative treatments or pain medicine specialists if a physician is reluctant to prescribe opioid medications.

Other Considerations

  • Regulatory changes don’t address the issue of opioid-deaths that are caused by abuse of non-pharmaceutical products, like heroin.
  • For individuals with opioid addiction, substance abuse treatment remains complicated and is not always affordable.

What do you think about this topic?

 

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3 Comments

  1. i agree with the pros and cons in the article Im finding in my circle that people are turning to the streets to address pain issues The cost of one Hydrocodone 10 mg tablet is 5 dollars a pill Herion is so much cheaper and so much easier to obtain My doctor said he would go to jail if he gave someone like me narcotics for the pain I’m in ….indeed someone like me We need to figure this out before suicide becomes the answer to people in severe chronic pain It is relentless and without relief many will turn to death to find a way out

  2. It is ridiculous that people with chronic pain is treated like this! I feel like a criminal with all the drug testing that isn’t even correct. I was looking through my medical testing online and saw that one of my tests showed Meth! I was so upset! I confronted my Doctor about it I have never even saw that stuff and would never put that poison in my body. My doctor told me that some cold medicine will show Meth, isn’t that something! I take Claritin D everyday for my sinus problems if I don’t I can’t breathe. He wasn’t concerned because he knew I took it but I was flipping out. What is so bad is the criminal always find a way around regulations and gets what they need and the honest Disabled people are the ones that have to suffer. We are on a low income and have to pay extra to go to specialist to get medication. Oh and my doctor said the police gave a 70 yr Old a DUI because of her medicine. She was rear ended at a red light and did nothing wrong but she got a ticket! The medicine I take stays in my system for 8 hrs she said so if I’m in a accident I guess I would get a ticket too. I know if I’m impaired to drive. On the bottle it says to know how the medicine will affect you before driving. After you take pain medicine for a long time it don’t give you no high. All this has just gotten out of control because of people that abuse medications. The other lady post is correct people can only take pain for so long before they think about ending their life. It shouldn’t be like this!

  3. I have suffered from Fibromyalgia for more than 30 years. I also have arthritis, spinal stenosis which also adds to my pain. I’ve tried everything the doctors suggested with no luck. this past year Ive had a huge flare up and the pain was awful. It was the only time I’ve ever asked for pain med’s to help with the pain. My PCP refused and prescribed me once again other treatments. I tried Gabapentin, Lyrica, Cymbalta, currently trying Savella. no relief and my sleeplessness has increased 10 fold. I was sent to specialists. The first one told me at the beginning of my first appointment she didn’t think she could help me. she sent me to physical therapy, and to see a pscychologist for cognitive training for pain management. The second specialist is doing his best to help me and I’m hopeful. But the issue of treating the pain has not been addressed. One would believe that since I’ve done everything requested with no results they might just give me a few days supply of something to help take the edge off and perhaps i might be able to sleep better and get through this flare up. Everyday I wake up In pain and I go to bed in pain, I can’t sleep because of pain, I cant think straight some days because of pain. So why oh why can’t I get help.
    oh yeah it’s because of those who abuse medications usually found on the streets or stolen from someones medicine cabinet. I wonder where they will find it to steal if no one is being prescribed it anymore?????

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