Physicians equipped with the right knowledge will play a crucial role in stopping the prescription opioid epidemic that has claimed the lives of more than 180,000 people in the United States in the past 15 years.
The US Food and Drug Administration has designed a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS) for extended-release and long-acting opioids to provide physicians with the right tools to better prescribe and monitor opioid use among their patients.
This Collaborative for REMS Education course (CO*RE REMS), “Opioid Prescribing: Saving Lives,” is a two-hour standard class taught to physicians across the United States and will be offered Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in Hall B, Level 200, Convention Center. It is a Joint Session with the AOA Bureau of Scientific Affairs and Public Health and the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians.
“The purpose is to not only educate physicians about opioids but also educate physicians on opioid prescribing—proper prescribing practices, dos and don’ts, cautions, things we need to be aware of,” said Jennifer Caudle, DO, family physician and associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Rowan University-School of Osteopathic Medicine, who will be teaching this course. “As a physician, and often the people that are at the frontlines of a prescription, we really need to be thoughtful about our prescribing practices and really understand the medicine we’re prescribing and how they should be used and not used.”
During the course, Dr. Caudle will familiarize physicians with the different kinds of opioids to ultimately combat overdosing and death from overdosing, which devastates thousands of families. She’ll discuss the opioid’s relative strengths, meaning how strong one opioid is versus another so physicians know what precautions to take. Dr. Caudle also will walk physicians through how to select the right patient for opioid use. In other words, what guidelines should be used to determine if someone’s pain or medical issues warrant opioids or other modalities. It’s also the physician’s responsibility to educate and monitor patients through their opioid use, she said.
“We need to be educating patients on how to properly take the medication and then see if they’re taking it appropriately, which is a very important part of this opioid epidemic,” Dr. Caudle said. “It is crucial that patients take medications only as directed, not any more, not divert their medications to family members or friends who may have an ache or pain.”
It’s also important to keep track of the medication and assess if the patient is improving, Dr. Caudle said. Checking in with patients on their pain levels and how they’re responding to the medication can help from writing unnecessary prescriptions.
She will be reviewing tools that help monitor patients including the urine drug screen and the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), which is a national online system that allows a physician to log on and see if their patients have been getting controlled medications from other sources. There are other tools physicians can use like the controlled substance agreement, or contract, that patients must sign declaring they won’t share their medications and will the opioids properly.
“This is an epidemic that’s affecting everyone,” Dr. Caudle said. “It’s touching people of all ages, all genders and all races. It’s something we need to think about holistically, from all angles.”