The Connecticut Hospital Association has unveiled new guidelines on opioid prescriptions in hopes of reducing availability of addictive painkillers.
The guidelines encourage the use of pain treatments other than opioids.
“Although opioids may be necessary for the treatment of pain — a major symptom of many patients who come to the (emergency department) — the improper use of these drugs poses a serious threat to patients and society,” said CHA CEO Jennifer Jackson. “Connecticut hospitals recognize that providers have a responsibility to diagnose and treat pain, and they also have a responsibility to minimize the potential for the abuse of opioids.”
In 2017, the state saw 1,038 deaths due to accidental drug overdose, a 13 percent increase from the year before. This is the smallest percent increase year to year in the last five years.
CHA’s members includes the state’s 27 acute care hospitals, other types of hospitals, convalescent nursing homes, infirmaries, insurance companies, and other organizations.
The guidelines replace similar suggestions from 2015.
CHA recommends physicians promote alternative treatments, which Car Schiessl, CHA’s director of regulatory advocacy, said can include basic physical therapy or other non-addictive medications, such as aspirin. The suggested guidelines also aim to reduce the size of prescriptions.
State law in 2015 limited prescriptions, based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to seven day supplies for adults and five for children. CHA recommends emergency rooms, though, prescribe only a three-day supply.
Schiessel said that emergency rooms serve as a “bridge” between the time a patient suffers an injury or notices symptoms and their visit to a doctor.
“More often than not, there’s a specialist or a primary care physician that’s treating this chronic pain condition, whatever it may be,” he said. “In many respects, it’s not the job of the emergency medicine physician to create a long-term solution to that problem.”
The CHA guidelines also include recommendations for providers to give information to patients about supply limits and risks of prescription opioids.
The CHA worked with the Connecticut State Medical Society and Connecticut Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians in crafting the new guidelines, with oversight from the Department of Public Health.
“Stemming the tide of the opioid epidemic here in Connecticut requires collaboration and a concerted commitment at every level,” DPH Commissioner Raul Pino said in a statement, thanking the organizations for their work. “These updated guidelines demonstrate the willingness of hospitals and other providers to collaborate with state agencies to address the opioid epidemic.”