Treating Depression May Help Patients Stop Long-Term Prescription Opioid Use

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Patients with long-term opioid prescriptions and depression who take antidepressants are more likely to stop using opioids, a new study concludes. “Depression can worsen pain and is common in patients who remain long-term prescription opioid users,” lead researcher Jeffrey Scherrer, PhD, of Saint Louis University said in a news release. “Our study should encourage clinicians to determine if their non-cancer pain patients are suffering from depression and aggressively treat patients’ depression to reduce opioid use.” He added, “Effective depression treatment may break the mutually reinforcing opioid-depression relationship and increase the likelihood of successful opioid cessation.” The findings will be published in British Journal of Psychiatry .
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Walmart to Help Customers Safely Dispose of Opioids

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Walmart will give customers filling opioid prescriptions a packet of powder they can use to safely dispose of leftover medication, Reuters reports. Patients filling opioid prescriptions at Walmart or Sam’s Clubs pharmacies will receive a free packet of DisposeRx. To safely dispose of opioids, a person adds warm water and the powder to their pill bottle, which then forms a biodegradable gel around the pills. According to a Walmart news release, “Beginning immediately, patients filling any new Class II opioid prescription at Walmart pharmacies will receive a free DisposeRx packet and opioid safety information brochure when picking up their prescription. Patients with chronic Class II opioid prescriptions will be offered a free DisposeRx packet every six months.”
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Medicare Places Few Restrictions on Opioid Prescriptions: Study

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Medicare has not put significant restrictions in place for opioid prescriptions, despite recent government guidelines that recommend such limits, according to a new study. Yale researchers analyzed Medicare coverage for opioids. They found that in 2015, one-third of opioids were prescribed with no restrictions, such as prior authorization or setting quantity limits, HealthDay reports. The study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine , also found a modest increase in Medicare coverage of opioids between 2006 and 2015. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines that recommend primary care providers avoid prescribing opioid painkillers for patients with chronic pain. The guidelines state that doctors who determine that opioid painkillers are needed should prescribe the lowest possible dose for the shortest amount of time.
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CVS Sets Limits on Opioid Prescriptions

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CVS announced it will set limits on opioid prescriptions and add in-store disposal units for consumers so they can drop off unwanted and unused medications. CVS said it wants to ensure that opioids are being prescribed and used appropriately, consistent with guidelines for prescribing opioids set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a company news release, CVS will limit the supply of opioids dispensed for certain acute prescriptions to seven days; limit the daily dosage of opioids dispensed based on the strength of the opioid; and require the use of immediate-release formulations of opioids before extended-release opioids are dispensed. USA Today reports the company will instruct pharmacists to contact doctors when they come across prescriptions that appear to offer more medication than would be deemed necessary for a patient’s recovery.
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Opioid Epidemic Will Take Years to Resolve, Experts Warn

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The opioid epidemic took almost two decades to develop and it will take years to resolve, experts warn in a new report. The report, by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, calls for reducing the number of unnecessary opioid prescriptions, according to HealthDay . The experts also recommend improving access to the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, and increasing access to safe injection equipment to reduce the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C among people who inject drugs. The experts say federal agencies should help states provide universal access to proven addiction treatment in hospitals, criminal justice settings and substance-use treatment centers. They also recommend mandatory pain-related education for those who deliver care to people with pain.
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CDC Report Finds Mixed Results for Opioid Prescribing in New Jersey Counties

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Since the opioid crisis began to grip New Jersey and our nation, one of the crucial goals in stemming the tide of addiction was addressing the overprescribing of pain medication. The good news is that the number of opioid prescriptions decreased nationwide from 2010 to 2015. The bad news is that doctors gave out longer prescriptions and the average strength of prescriptions was still high, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released last week. The report also revealed that the number of prescriptions in parts of New Jersey remained high. An NJ.com report detailed the disparity in prescriptions written across the state’s 21 counties. While the rate of prescriptions per person dropped in 10 counties from 2010 to 2015, it increased in nine counties and did not change in two others, the report said. The totals are measured in “morphine milligram equivalents,” or MME, “which measures...
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Aetna Embraces Medication to Combat Opioid Crisis

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Aetna is going all in on medication-assisted treatment in response to the opioid epidemic, according to a letter CEO Mark Bertolini is sending today to a handful of Democratic senators. Bertolini highlights three goals the insurer hopes to achieve by 2022: Reduce inappropriate opioid prescriptions by 50%. Increase by 50% the number of opioid addicts treated with medication-assisted treatment and other evidence-based treatments. Increase the number of enrollees with chronic pain who use alternative pain treatments by 50%. Go deeper: Aetna's embrace of medication-assisted treatment is a sharp contrast from some insurers' previous reluctance to cover the approach, which Bob Herman covered for Modern Healthcare. It also follows Tom Price's controversial comment saying medication-assisted treatment is "substituting one opioid for another." But Aetna has already worked to make medication more available: Earlier this year, it removed all pre-authorization requirements for certain products and put them on a preventive medicine list...
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Hospitals Retraining Staff to Minimize Opioid Prescriptions

Hospitals Retraining Staff to Minimize Opioid Prescriptions
A growing number of hospitals across the country are rewriting protocols and retraining staff in an effort to minimize opioid prescriptions, PBS NewsHour reports. The changes are most pronounced in emergency departments. At the University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital, emergency room doctors used to give opioid painkillers right away. Dr. Phillip Chang, the hospital’s chief medical officer, says now doctors, pharmacists and nurses use non-opioid pain relievers like Advil or Tylenol first. They try multiple regimens before considering opioids. In a study of 900 patients treated at the hospital after the new policies were implemented, the trauma unit almost halved the amount of opioids given to patients who had no prior history of chronic opioid use. But there was little change in prescriptions for patients who were already chronically using opioids before admission. The hospital is now training ER doctors to prescribe fewer opioids for drug-dependent patients, and...
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More Than Half of U.S. Doctors Reducing Opioid Prescriptions

More Than Half of U.S. Doctors Reducing Opioid Prescriptions
A new survey finds more than half of U.S. doctors are reducing the number of opioid prescriptions they write. Almost 10 percent have stopped prescribing opioids altogether, The Boston Globe reports. More than one-third of doctors surveyed said reducing opioid prescribing has hurt patients with chronic pain. The survey was conducted for the newspaper by the SERMO physicians social network, an online community that allows doctors to anonymously share ideas and concerns. Doctors said the two main reasons they have cut back were the risks and hassles involved in prescribing opioids, and a better understanding of the painkillers’ risks.
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