West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey finalized best practices aimed at eradicating prescription drug abuse by better equipping the state’s prescribers and pharmacists.
The first-of-its-kind initiative in West Virginia has garnered broad support from stakeholders across the state and nation, including the American Medical Association, American Osteopathic Association, West Virginia State Medical Association, West Virginia Osteopathic Medical Association and West Virginia Society of Health System Pharmacists.
“Finalizing these best practices set West Virginia on course to a brighter tomorrow,” Morrisey said. “This initiative recognizes the crucial role prescribers and dispensers play. Their broad support emboldens my belief that we can slash usage of these addictive painkillers by at least 25 percent and save many from a life of addiction.”
Finalization of the best practices initiative continues Morrissey’s push to reduce prescription of opioid medication as a first-line therapy option. These drugs, such as Lortab and Vicodin, have characteristics similar to heroin.
The attorney general’s plan provides recommendations to 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.
Others supporting the attorney general’s best practices include the state’s Boards of Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine, Dentistry, Occupational Therapy, Chiropractic and Acupuncture, in addition to the state’s Board of Examiners in Counseling and the state’s Massage Therapy Licensure Board.
That list also includes the state’s School of Osteopathic Medicine, Primary Care Association, Academy of Family Physicians, Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, Physical Therapy Association, Occupational Therapy Association, Association of Licensing Boards and the Family Medicine Foundation of West Virginia, along with the American College of Osteopathic Neurologists and Psychiatrists, American Occupational Therapy Association, American Massage Therapy Association, International Association of Yoga Therapists and the American Meditation Society.
The best practices initiative urges prescribers 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.
Likewise, pharmacists are encouraged 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.
The suggestions underscore 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.
In 2015, West Virginia recorded approximately 686 drug overdose deaths, including 598 opioid-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.