The entire country, the New England region in particular, is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Opioids are drugs that are used for the management of pain and is also the class of drug from which the street drug heroin comes from. Initially hailed as a wonder drug, opioids and their aura have been demystified by modern medical science and research, which has shown how addictive and harmful they can be when abused. It is estimated that 26% of those prescribed opioids for non-chronic pain have some sort of dependence. Every day, 78 Americans die from opioid abuse and this problem has been seeping into the public eye, as Katharine Seeyle of the New York Times reported.
When considering the opioid problem, one can think of it as two separate problems: the first being the prevalence of heroin on the streets and the second being the over-prescription of opioids by well-meaning, but sometimes misinformed physicians. The first problem is one that will likely take both a cultural and legal change to ameliorate, as the medical community is more reactionary, providing assistance and medical attention to addicts and their overdoses. The FDA is working closely with the NIH and the HHS to develop alternate non-opioid chronic pain treatments and come up with different ways to test the long-term effects of opioids. This will be important, as one way to curb the opioid epidemic is to prescribe less addictive opioids. As the safeguard for consumers, the FDA will also be examining ways that it can improve on drug labeling (label applied before the drug is officially approved by FDA and is available for sale) as well as postmarketing labeling (updated labels that come after the approved drug has reached the population). The second problem is one that can be taken on by the healthcare practitioners and one great way that Massachusetts physicians are tackling the problem is through continuing education.
Massachusetts state law now dictates that physicians are required to undergo three credit hours of training in pain management and opioid education. This education includes training effective pain management techniques, identifying patients who are at a high risk for substance abuse, and counseling patients about side effects and addictive qualities of opioids. Over 5,000 prescribers have completed CE through the Massachusetts Medical Society’s online courses in the past year, 57% of which were Massachusetts physicians. The law which the Massachusetts legislature drafted and Governer Charlie Baker signed into law also included a component which called for increased opioid education for medical and dental students.
This CE is offered by the previously mentioned Massachusetts Medical Society and can be done from the comfort of your home. It is available for free and is redeemable for 6.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits and would cover the required 3.0 CE credits needed for Massachusetts physicians.
This CE is offered through Haymarket Media and Boston University. In this activity, you’ll meet a patient and learn how to decide on whether to prescribe her opioids, assess for opioid misuse risk, and monitor her treatment. This is also free and can is redeemable for 2.0 AMA PRA Category 1 credits for physicians or 2.0 contact hours for nurses.
This CE is offered through the American Academy of Pain Medicine and will be held from March 16-19, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. The program, when completed, is redeemable for up to 31.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits. This would be more credits than the average physician needs in any given year and you’ll be surrounded by your colleagues in warm and sunny Orlando.
This CE is available through the American Academy of Family Physicians and is accredited by the ACCME. It is free for AAFP members, but is $44.95 for non-members. When completed, it is redeemable for 5.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits. Would be great CE for family physicians who are already part of the AAFP.
This CE is available for free through Medscape through an independent educational grant provided by Salix Pharmaceuticals and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals. It is available for credit through 07/31/2016 so if it interests you, complete it soon, although you will be available to complete the activity after July 31st – it just won’t be for CE credit.
Also, please do me a little favor and share this post with others, for there’s a good chance that it can help some of your colleagues.