West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey this week unveiled a draft best practices initiative aimed at eradicating prescription drug abuse by better equipping the state’s prescribers and pharmacists.
Morrisey said West Virginia must dramatically reduce the prescription of opioids as a first-line therapy option. From Tuesday’s initiatives and others, he hopes to reduce opioid use by at least 25 percent.
The draft initiative offers recommendations for prescribers and pharmacists who prescribe or dispense opioid prescriptions across West Virginia. It is designed to reduce misuse, while preserving legitimate patient access to necessary treatment.
The guidelines urge pharmacists to verify the legitimacy of each patient, prescriber and prescription, in addition to ensuring the medication, dose, quantity and any mix thereof is safe and appropriate.
Likewise, prescribers are encouraged to regularly monitor their patient’s use of opioid drugs; utilize physical exams and urine tests to spot evidence of misuse; and educate each patient about the risks of opioid treatment, only then approving such a prescription after a screening and consideration of non-opioid alternatives.
The best practices project underscores the importance of both professions utilizing the state’s controlled substance monitoring database; educating patients about safe use, storage and disposal of opioid drugs; and incorporating naloxone into opioid treatment discussions.
The proposal does not impact patients suffering pain as active cancer treatments or palliative and end-of-life care.
Many experts agree oxycodone, hydrocodone and other prescription opioids can lead to addiction and heroin abuse, a progression that has killed far too many in West Virginia.
Morrisey also unveiled plans to purchase drug incinerators to assist in the disposal of unwanted and expired medication, in addition to a public service campaign to empower patients to question their need for opioid therapy.
In 2015, West Virginia recorded approximately 686 drug overdose deaths, including 598 opiate-related fatal overdoses. That’s one year after West Virginia led the nation in drug overdose deaths at a rate of 35.5 per 100,000 people.