Tags: community , redesigning care

Throughout the year, Partners HealthCare convenes dozens of system-wide committees to discuss, brainstorm, and strategize about policies and ideas that will improve the care our patients receive.  To further our discussions and learning, we often bring in experts to inform our thinking.

In July, Claire Brennan, a New England Manager in the DEA’s Drug Diversion program, joined more than fifteen clinical leaders from across Partners to share information about the national landscape of the opioid crisis; the DEA’s efforts and interests in addressing this epidemic; and to discuss how providers and federal agencies might work together to educate patients and work with staff to change practices.

Brennan shared that the evolution of drug addiction and the opioid crisis in particular started as far back as the late 1800s, but only took off in the mid-1990s. This period of history marked the widespread availability of OxyContin, and the widely held but incorrect belief that opioids were not addictive.  As the world has evolved in the years since, we have learned that oxycodone is the most prevalent opioid, and, as we all know, contributes to a national opioid crisis. No community is immune to its devastating effects.

While local law enforcement agencies are working with the DEA to arrest distributors, and physicians in Massachusetts are reviewing patient information in a statewide PMP database before prescribing pain medication, we know there is more work to be done to better manage the recovery of those battling addiction.

While local law enforcement agencies are working with the DEA to arrest distributors, and physicians in Massachusetts are reviewing patient information in a statewide PMP database before prescribing pain medication, we know there is more work to be done to better manage the recovery of those battling addiction. These topics will be part of future debate and investment, and as such, Partners will continue work to be part of the solution. 

Some highlights of the discussion with the DEA worth noting include:

  • While physicians acknowledge that they were part of the problem with the opioid availability, there are many contributing factors that launched it into crisis status. Addicts can shop doctors and get multiple prescriptions; resort to theft or criminal acts to acquire pills; or they are health professionals themselves (e.g., the CDC estimates that there are more than 100,000 healthcare workers addicted to opioids), who have easy access to medications, or may become addicted by trying to self-medicate. 
  • Specific to physicians, the DEA’s focus is to identify those individuals who are abusing their oath. In California, for example, one doctor prescribed more than 866,000 pills in a single year. 
  • Initiatives across the nation include the DEA’s “Take Back” program, which will launch on October 22, 2016.

Partners HealthCare physicians are aware of the many Medical Standards for Control Substance Prescribing requirements that they must follow, including that the evidence must exist demonstrating a physician-patient relationship and a patient chart that details proper diagnosis, expectations of drug therapy, discussion of alternative therapies.  In addition, Partners pharmacists are aware that they can refuse to dispense a product if they suspect abuse. But even with these standards in place, we know that future education is necessary to ensure our network continues to lead the debate in the fight against our nation’s opioid epidemic.

Partners HealthCare is committed to ending our nation’s opioid epidemic. Keep on top of the latest news by subscribing to our newsletter below.