New research released by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids confirms several “disconnects” in the pain-related communication between healthcare prescribers of prescription opiates (Rx painkillers) and their patients. The new data was fielded by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, in collaboration with the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Pain Management and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals to gain a better understanding of the interactions between opiate-prescribing healthcare providers and patients.
Disconnect Between Prescribers and Patients Can Lead to Dependence, Addiction
The new research uncovered concerning disconnects that can have the potential to make patients more vulnerable to misuse and abuse of Rx drugs, which in turn may lead to dependence or addiction to prescribed or illegal opiates.
“This research highlights key opportunities for prescribers of Rx opiates and their patients to have better communication around proper use and disposal of prescribed painkillers,” said Marcia Lee Taylor, Interim President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “The Centers for Disease Control has deemed abuse of prescription painkillers an ‘epidemic,’ and we can all do our part to help turn the tide on this critical health issue. Prescribers and patients can become more aware of the repercussions surrounding the improper storage and disposal of Rx pain medications and talk more at length in order to improve doctor-patient communication and help curb abuse.”
Patients’ Improper Use of Rx Opiates Causes Concern Among Physicians
The new research found that physicians are concerned that patients are not taking their Rx painkillers as instructed, often taking larger quantities than prescribed in a 24-hour period, prolonging their prescriptions or taking them for reasons other than those prescribed by their doctors. The majority of prescribers (77 percent of primary care physicians and 75 percent of pain management specialists) believe that patients do not always use their prescribed opiates in accordance with instructions.
Casual Attitudes Among Patients About Safeguarding of Rx Painkillers, Keeping Them Away from Children
According to the new data, patients pay little attention to the proper storage and disposal of medications – perhaps because they’re unlikely to learn about this from their prescriber. Only 11 percent of chronic pain patients and 13 percent of acute pain patients say they are concerned with someone else in their household accessing their medications; and only 42 percent of chronic and 52 of acute pain patients who have children in the household said they store their medication somewhere their children cannot reach.
“Education and dialogue among patients, caregivers, healthcare providers and the community are essential to build awareness on the responsible prescribing, use, storage and disposal of pain medication,” said Mark Trudeau, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. “Mallinckrodt is dedicated to providing safe and effective medications to treat pain and is equally committed to help address the complex issues of opioid addiction and abuse. This includes raising awareness of the proper use, storage and disposal of prescription medicines.”
Some Prescribers Feel Unprepared To Identify, Address Rx Painkiller Abuse
Many physicians reported that they don’t feel comfortable prescribing Rx opiates or identifying painkiller abuse among their patients. In order to assess risk potential among their patients, some prescribers may rely predominantly on personal experience and marked behaviors, such as patients asking for specific brands, rather than utilizing more standardized tools and resources.
The survey also found that some patients who are afflicted with pain are actually seeking alternatives to treating their pain exclusively with opiates. Roughly 9 in 10 chronic pain patients have tried using a non-opiate based treatment before relying on opiates. The most common alternative treatments were physical therapy (84 percent), pain relieving injections (69 percent) and massages (52 percent).
Prescribers are offering these alternatives more than they once did, as 78 percent of primary care physicians and 69 percent of pain management specialists say they are increasingly promoting alternative treatments as opposed to opiate medications to chronic pain patients.
“Healthcare providers play an important role in prescribing responsibly, communicating the risks of abuse and helping patients who may already be misusing or abusing an Rx pain medication,” said Taylor. “This research suggests to us that prescribers need to feel more confident in assessing the potential risk of misuse or abuse of the Rx medicines, but unfortunately many of them feel they have not received proper training to assess those risks. There is a lot more we can do to help prescribers feel they have the proper tools they need to feel comfortable prescribing these medicines and taking action if a patient is abusing them.”
Resources from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is helping educate parents, community stakeholders and others about the dangers of teen abuse of Rx medicines via The Medicine Abuse Project, a five-year initiative with the goal of preventing half a million teens from abusing prescription medicine by the year 2017. The Medicine Abuse Project provides comprehensive resources to parents, educators, healthcare providers, law enforcement officials and others about the growing problem of teen medicine abuse.
The information presented above is excerpted from the full press release, which can be read in its entirety here.