Massachusetts Medical Schools Aim to Prevent and Manage Rx Misuse

The four medical schools in Massachusetts will incorporate instruction in preventing and treating prescription drug misuse into their curriculum, according to The Boston Globe.

The state’s 3,000 medical school students will learn skills designed to prevent painkiller misuse.

The medical schools and the Massachusetts Medical Society worked with the state Public Health Commissioner to develop a list of 10 “core competencies,” such as telling if a patient is at risk of addiction to painkillers; knowing alternatives to opioids for treating pain; being familiar with ways to treat addiction; developing treatment plans for pain and addiction; being aware of biases against people with substance use disorders; and knowing how to counsel people about behavior change.

While medical schools already address many of these topics, the new initiative is designed to ensure that the schools uniformly cover these issues.

“We must ensure that future generations of physicians are equipped with the requisite skills to successfully prevent, identify, and treat substance use disorders,” Marylou Sudders, Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said in a news release.

“What we’re seeing in the community suggests that there’s a problem in how many opiate doses are out there,” said Dr. Terence R. Flotte, Dean of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “Whatever we’re doing now is not good enough.” He said the school will add simulations, in which actors pretend to be patients, that require medical school students to decide whether and how much to prescribe to a patient complaining of pain.

Dr. Harris A. Berman, Medical Dean at Tufts University Medical School, said school already has a required course in addiction medicine. He noted information about treating pain and recognizing addiction will be added into course materials in surgery, pediatrics, and other topics.