Pennsylvania Takes an Important Step in Fight Against Opioid Abuse

Pennsylvania has been one of the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic, with more than 3,500 people dying from the drugs last year. Michael Ashburn, MD, MPH, guest blogs today on the Philadelphia Inquirer’s health section and points out that the epidemic started with the best of intentions: relieve pain.

Ashburn blogs: “Over the years we discovered that opioids for noncancer pain have limited impact on pain control, and even more limited impact on physical or mental functioning. Indeed, the average pain relief when opioids are used on a chronic basis is 40% or less.”

Ashburn, a professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at the University of Pennsylvania, and a senior fellow of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, places much hope in the recent launch of the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), “an electronic database of controlled substances dispensed in the state. It can be accessed by prescribers, state policymakers, and law enforcement.”

But as Winston Churchill said about another life-or-death struggle: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Asburn: “While the launch of the Pennsylvania PDMP is a major step forward, a PDMP will not solve the prescription drug crises we are experiencing in Pennsylvania. Indeed, concern has been raised that Pennsylvania might experience a growth in IV heroin use as prescription drugs become less available for nonmedical use.”

Source: Philadelpha Inquirer