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Effort to combat opioid abuse: Johns Hopkins provides guidance

The Department of Justice (DOJ) continues to crackdown on the illegal prescription of opioids. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made clear his focus on opioid-related health care fraud and the prosecution of healthcare professionals that allegedly contribute to the problem. Enforcement efforts have led to the arrest and prosecution of medical professionals throughout the country. Although some have misused their role as a medical practitioner to illegally prescribe opioids for their own financial benefit, many faced false accusations of wrongdoing.

The government's continued focus on prosecution and enforcement efforts serves as a reminder for physicians to prescribe opioids carefully.

In an effort to provide some guidance, medical experts with Johns Hopkins recently developed a set of opioid prescription guidelines to assist physicians that are attempting to balance quality care with overuse of a dangerous medication. The recommendations were recently published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons and include:

  • Other options. The panel recommends medical professionals encourage patients attempt to manage pain with over-the-counter-painkillers as opposed to an opioid prescription.
  • Small prescriptions. If patients are unable to manage pain using over-the-counter-painkillers, physicians should prescribe a small number of opioids. The panel specifically recommends one to 15 opioid tablets in the initial prescription for most procedures. In some cases, procedures warranted a larger prescription.
  • Consider the patient. Most importantly, the panel recommends tailoring the prescription to the individual patient. Avoid a default prescription. Take each patient's medical history into consideration and prescribe accordingly.

The recommendations were put together by a group of 30 Johns Hopkins Health System professionals. These professionals included surgeons and pain specialist as well as pharmacist, nurse practitioners and patients.

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